Network Rail’s proposal to replace Plumpton’s traditional level crossing gates with an automatic barrier was unanimously rejected by members of Lewes District Council’s planning committee on Wednesday night (September 30).
The village is now sliced in two and the rail firm has told villagers it will remain that way.
Extensive work has already started and the crossing is now closed, forcing people living south of the railway to take a lengthy roundabout route to get to the school, shop, pub or racecourse.
Parish Council vice chair Reg Stone said: “Three people from the village spoke very well at the meeting and they were opposed by three members of Network Rail staff.
“The firm says it does not have the parts or skills to repair the existing barrier. Our people said ‘if they can put a man on the moon they should be able to make a bit if iron.’ Another suggested they could pop up to the Bluebell Railway which will show them how.”
The village has been in uproar since it was announced that the gates were to go.
Reg Stone went on: “Throughout years of planning Network Rail has shown a ruthless determination to get its own way come what may, whatever others think, and with absolutely no concern for our heritage.
“The fact that they have a date planned and road closure orders in place for this month to complete this operation, despite the fact that consent has not been granted, demonstrates just how they operate.”
He claims Network Rail have said if LDC does not agree to the removal of the gates, then the lane will be closed permanently.
“Network Rail should hang its head in shame over its despicable conduct.
“Safety has been the big issue and Network Rail’s worst safety record seems to apply at unmanned level crossings, yet it has declared Plumpton’s crossing as being low risk.”
In the meantime, parents living on the South Downs side of the crossing have to use Streat, Novington or Spatham lanes to access the north end of Plumpton lane then drive southwards to the primary school. Access to the racecourse from the south is also blocked. A few people have been accessing the platforms and using the footbridge to cross the line.
The traditional gates are part of the Grade I Listed railway complex comprising the signal box and station itself.
Villagers say they have no objection to a modern system but ask why it cannot be modelled on the traditional gates.
Network Rail is expected to appeal the decision. The company has been contacted for a comment.
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