A devastating blow has been dealt to campaigners looking to save a signal box in Polegate after Network Rail said it cannot be turned into a railway museum in its current location.
Just last month campaigners from Save our Signal Box were celebrating after a meeting with Network Rail bosses took place to confirm plans for its transfer to the group.
But Mayor of Polegate and chairman of the group, Michael Clewett, said after meeting more representatives from Network Rail, they have decided not to let the group have the signal box at its current location which is on railway land.
Polegate MP Norman Baker said he was ‘surprised and disappointed’ to learn the signal box was once again under threat as a community resource.
He is asking Network Rail to think again and commit to their original promise.
Mr Clewett said he met a Network Rail representative who said they could not have the building, it was not practical on health and safety grounds as high voltage cables were buried beneath it.
“It did not seem to bother them when their own staff were in there or even us when we met in the building,” he said.
However he said on February 16, about a month before, Mr Baker received a letter written by the executive contact officer, Gareth Edwards, on behalf of their managing director, which said: “We are happy to allow a community group/project to lease the box from Network Rail and our property team are currently working to identify the cost of preparing the lease.”
“I have written to the MD asking if he can confirm the position as set forth in Mr Edwards’ letter,” said Mr Clewett. “Assuming this is correct there should be no problem.”
Mr Clewett said he was told at the latest meeting they could have the building in its component form for erection elsewhere.
“This totally ignores that this box is iconic in Polegate High Street, a town that owes its existence to the coming of the railways in 1840,” he said.
“I am extremely grateful to Norman for all his help and also to Malcolm Cunningham, a former Mayor and a railway employee who has worked tirelessly behind the scenes.”
Mr Baker said: “This is particularly disappointing given the fact that nothing about this was mentioned in any previous correspondence.”
He has written to Network Rail to urge them to find a way to deal with this ‘alleged health and safety problem’.