A decision on a new footbridge at Newhaven’s Tide Mills over the railway line is set to be made next week.
Network Rail wants to close the existing crossing in Mill Drove used by people accessing Seaford Bay and build a new pedestrian bridge with ramped access.
The organisation says there was one fatality at the crossing in February 2016 and a series of recent near misses, with the project part of a nationwide programme to replace unmanned surface crossings.
However the Open Space Society, South Downs Society and Sussex Industrial Archaeology Society, along with 69 individuals have raised objections to the proposed development.
A decision on the application is set to be made by the South Downs National Park Authority’s planning committee on Thursday July 11 at a meeting in Midhurst, West Sussex.
Officers are recommending the plans be approved.
According to the application: “Given the unique users and site, it is clear that a standard solution in this situation is not acceptable. The need for improved safety cannot be ignored, however the beautiful landscape, archaeological significance and variety of wildlife form a precious and unique landscape which requires a site specific and exemplary response.”
It continues: “The footbridge design aims to add value to the journey through careful attention to views and through placemaking. The main crossing over the rail offers an opportunity for a new view over the landscape which is not currently available. Through careful and sensitive design, the main crossing over the rail will become a valuable place in the landscape – adding character and interest for the users.”
Seaford Town Council has objected saying the proposed crossing would have a ‘seriously adverse effect on the special character of the Tide Mills area’, which is an important historical and archaeological site.
Meanwhile the South Downs Society argued it would be out of character with the local environment and will be an ‘eyesore’ in a flat area with wide open aspects.
The society also argued the bridge would detract from the appreciation of the Tide Mils archaeological/heritage site and it also raised concerns about the new ramps being too much to manage for people with limited mobility.
In its representation the Open Space Society said: “This is no place to build a structure that will be visible for a very great distance because of its elevation, topped off with a black edifice.”
But an officers’ report due to be discussed next week says: “The flat and open landscape means the bridge structure will be very visible and a conscious decision has been taken by the applicant to embrace that and create a design which responds positively and characteristically to the area.
“The bridge provides an opportunity to enhance biodiversity through the introduction of appropriate planting on the embankments, and improved habitat management. The bridge also enables new views and interpretation of the lost village of Tide Mills, which is an area of significant archaeological interest. The project overall provides a new experience of the natural beauty and cultural heritage of the area, which is sensitively designed.”