A new footbridge at Newhaven’s Tide Mills over the railway line has been unanimously approved by the South Downs National Park Authority this week.
Network Rail wants to close the existing crossing in Mill Drove used by people to access 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 all raised objections to the proposed footbridge.
But the application was unanimously approved by the South Downs National Park Authority’s planning committee at a meeting in Midhurst today (Thursday July 11).
Paul Donald, a business development manager at Network Rail, told the committee that just last week a woman and two children were seconds away from being hit by a train at the crossing. He felt the new bridge would lead to more people coming to the area.
Committee member Gary Marsh said: “This will be absolutely brilliant and I’m all for it.”
Robert Mocatta added: “I think this is an incredibly sensible suggestion that we should be supporting.”
William Meyer described the bridge as an ‘exceptionally attractive design’, while Barbara Holyome added: “I would congratulate Network Rail and our officers on this. I think they have worked really hard to get something really special.”
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’. 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.