Sep 2021 – Barcombe, East Sussex.

Lewes District Council have condemned National Highways’ proposed infilling of Church Road bridge in Barcombe. In response, Hazel Fell Rayner, the local campaign organiser, said: ‘We welcome the news that leaders from Lewes District Council have written to the Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps, calling for the “full and unequivocal cessation” of National Highway’s destructive infill programme that threatens not only Church Road bridge in Barcombe but scores of other historic railway structures across the country. We are particularly pleased to see that they have challenged National Highways’ claim of immediate safety concerns as grounds for proceeding with infill without local authority scrutiny. It is unsustainable for a public body to undermine democratic process in this way. Over the past few days, National Highways has made contradictory claims about their plans, but the company’s actions on site, including the recent installation of bat exclusion measures, indicate an intention to go ahead with their preferred 16 infill scheme as soon as they are able. We will continue to campaign vigorously against this unwarranted act and value the support of Lewes District Council in opposing it in the strongest terms.’

Designed by civil engineer Frederick Banister, the bridge on Church Road, Barcombe was built in the early 1880s as part of a line connecting Lewes and East Grinstead. The structure carries a narrow, minor road and is assessed as having a capacity of 24 tonnes. A weight restriction prohibits vehicles over 20 tonnes from using it, helping to keep unsuitable traffic out of the village. The brick parapets and wingwalls have been subject to movement for many years, with cracks recorded as long ago as 1994. But instead of carrying out appropriate repairs, National Highways intends to bury the Victorian feat within an estimated 1,000 tonnes of aggregate and concrete. The design has already been completed and a start date for the work is awaited. There is anger that the scheme is being progressed under Permitted Development powers which leaves objectors without a voice and circumvents any democratic scrutiny of the historical, ecological and environmental impacts. (Forgotten Relics)