Oct 2021 – Toller Porcorum, Dorset.

In October, contractors working for National Highways (the organisation called Highways England until recently) ‘came in like a tornado, removing everything in their path’, according to a landowner. They arrived on site and entered the property of three landowners, creating an access route up to the former trackbed, felling trees and disposing of the timber. The landowners had not been notified of the work or given their consent for it.

One of the landowners, who does not wish to be identified, said: ‘It was wild and unspoiled – full of lovely things – but they’ve cleared all the vegetation and trees from around the bridge. The chippings were spread over the embankment, but they’ve now washed into the road drains which have blocked, so there’s a massive flood there at the moment. The contractor let slip that they were asked to do this because there is a bat survey about to happen for the demolition and they couldn’t take the risk that there were bats roosting in the trees. That would stop the job.

The disused railway bridge over Barrowland Lane is needed for the development of a narrow-gauge railway and cycle route connecting Maiden Newton with Bridport. Building a new structure to modern standards would not be viable. However, the brickwork is in poor condition following years of neglect and National Highways now intends to demolish the bridge. On 8th October, the company told its newly-formed Stakeholder Advisory Forum that it wants to lift the nationwide moratorium and remove the structure – at a cost of around £175,000 – although it is thought that Ministerial approval would be needed. Demolition would allow Dorset Council to progress an alternative ‘trailway’ proposal along the old line, but the link to Barrowland Lane does not have planning permission or meet cycling infrastructure design standards. (Forgotten Relics; RR)