Vow to fight on after signal box demolition threat

Polegate signal box
Polegate signal box

A historic signal box on the railway line in Polegate could be pulled down after a campaign group lost its battle to get the building listed.

Network Rail wants to demolish the signal box building, and some others in the country as part of a countrywide modernisation scheme. All signalling around the country will be moved to 14 hubs – the nearest to Polegate will be at Three Bridges.

Campaigners signed a petition and appealed to English Heritage in a bid to get the building listed which would give it protection from demolition.

But this was turned down last week.

Campaigner Michael Clewett, from Polegate, said: “Regrettably English Heritage have turned down our application to have the building listed basically on the grounds that it is not unique and it has had plastic windows put in.

“We think this is a poor decision. The first thing we intend to do is replace the windows with copies of the originals as shown in photographs and indeed installed in Eastbourne Box which is listed. Window replacement is perfectly normal in buildings and as long as matching ones are installed it should not affect eligibility for listed building status. Regarding uniqueness I do not think this is valid. Berwick box, next on the up-line is listed and yet this has been marred architecturally. Polegate is a far superior design particularly as regards its ornamental brickwork.

“One of the main reasons for its retention is, however, its dominant position in our High Street. A landmark known by all who use the street and one of the few Victorian buildings still standing.There were two reasons for wishing to have the building listed, a, to ensure its continued presence and b, it would make it easier to obtain funding from bodies such as the Heritage Lottery Fund.”

Mr Clewett said the group would be submitting an appeal to English Heritage and contacting Network Rail confirming details of what they want to do with the building after it’s decommissioned.

He continued: “Obviously I and the committee are very upset at the decision by English Heritage and various folk I have spoken to in the town have used words such as unbelievable, ridiculous etc. We are not deterred, however, and are carrying on with our aim to produce a small railway museum dedicated to the railway between Brighton and Hastings from its inception in 1849 up until the desecration carried out by Beeching in the 1960s.”

Mr Clewett said this was a private venture on behalf of the residents and there was no political involvement of any kind or any town council funds.

The railway company hopes to start the three month demolition work from December as part of a country-wide scheme to rid itself of almost all signal boxes as they become redundant. A spokesman for Network Rail said: “As part of the modernisation of signalling on the railway which is taking place across the country, the signal box at Polegate will not be needed when its operations are transferred to a new signalling centre at Three Bridges. We are in discussions with the local authority and local people about whether the box has an alternative use within the community.”