12:01pm Thursday 15th March 2012
By Alex Winter
CAMPAIGNERS fighting for renovations to the bridge at Chippenham Railway Station cheered “We did it” at the Northern Area Planning Committee on Wednesday (14) as plans were approved.
Despite opposition to the “ugly” designs from Councillor Chris Caswill, it was unanimously agreed that the current bridge straddling the railway will be demolished and a new one, incorporating a lift, will be built in its place.
Chair of the Community Access to Rail Travel group in the town, Coun Maureen Lloyd, said she had been battling for the renovations since 1996.
“I was shocked when I found I had to come to this meeting - I didn’t think it would come before a committee,” she admitted during the meeting.
“I hope councillors will find the compassion and sense of duty to allow this application to go through.”
Clare Evans MBE, chair of the Wiltshire Centre for Independent Living, said infirm or disabled people found it difficult and alarming to cross the footbridge.
“Why do we have to be treated so differently when we just want to be treated the same as anyone else,” she said.
But Coun Caswill said while he feels it is essential for the railway station to have a lift, the design of the new bridge was “tatty”.
“The current arrangements are unacceptable, undignified, and I am astonished they have not be challenged in court,” he said.
“Having said that, I think the committee should pause. The truth of the matter is that this is in a conservation area. It is right beside on of the jewels of Chippenham architecture. It seems that one very tatty piece of metal is being replaced by another ugly, tatty piece of metal.”
However, Coun Desna Allen said: “Accessibility and equality for all comes before aesthetics.”
Planning officer Brian Taylor said some felt the bridge had a “utilitarian structure”, but said Network Rail had made many compromises on the original designs.
“The materials being used in the towers at the bridge are stone on the lower half and galvanised metal on the upper part, which is a dull, grey colour,” he said.
Councillors eventually agreed that the plans should be approved, on the condition that the paint scheme used could be looked at again, as it was felt it made the bridge look worse.
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