LETTER: Risk aversion is now the name of the game

Whilst sympathising with Plumpton residents who are reluctant to lose their historic level crossing gates, I fear it is inevitable that they will be replaced by modern electronic barrier gates in the interests of public safety coupled with the responsibility which Southern Rail inescapably bears to avoid any accidents, fatal or otherwise.

I am afraid that the name of the game now is very much one of risk aversion and liability especially where safety issues are concerned.

I am sure that Lewes District Council will have been legally advised as to their position when taking a vote on whether or not to grant listed building consent for the removal of the gates, in the light of their replacement with a safer form of automatic electronic barriers.

Had they refused planning consent, they would thereby incur a direct measure of responsibility for any accidents arising, for which indemnification via insurance would be very great, if not untenable.

I know from my own experience that health & safety issues, however much derided, nearly always override any planning, political, or local democratic considerations.

When a statutory body or agency is the focus of any such contention, it is usually a foregone conclusion that their responsibilities weigh the heaviest.

Regarding the historic Plumpton gates, their replacement at least means that the village gets its level crossing facility back, reuniting essential connection for the community. I do note however that no decision has been taken so far as to the future of these gates, which is not apparently at the top of the agenda, leaving one to fear that execution may be swift and brutal.

It is probably too much to hope that a humane solution will be found, ie, simply folding the gates back in a fixed position so as to preserve their visual relationship with the equally historic signal box, creating an impressive approach to either side of the railway.

I suggested this at a previous stage of this contentious and unhappy matter, and I raise it again for reconsideration.

Michael Parfect

Cranedown, Lewes