Venue: Belmont Ground, Belmont Road, Whitstable CT5 1QP
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(1) The Panel Members inspected the at grade crossing before the meeting. This visit was also attended by representatives from Network Rail and some 12 members of the public.
(2) The Definition Officer introduced the report by explaining that the County Council had received an application from Network Rail to divert public footpath CW80 at Whitstable. The stated grounds for the application were that it was in the interests of safety to remove the “at graded” foot crossing from the railway line and to run the path over a stepped bridge. Notification of the intended construction of the new footbridge was also notified to Canterbury CC’s Planning Department in May 2017.
(3) The Definition Officer continued by saying that the last risk assessment carried out by Network Rail in October 2016 had assigned the crossing a rating of C4, making it high risk. A number of incidents had also been recorded at the crossing over a number of years, including fatalities.
(4) The Definition Officer then referred to the responses to informal consultation. It had become clear that there was a large amount of opposition, not so much to the closure of the crossing, but rather to the proposed bridge and its impact on the local community and environment. As the majority of people considered that the crossing needed to be closed, the County Council undertook a further consultation on a complete extinguishment of the crossing.
(5) The Definition Officer went on to explain the legal tests. She said that the legislation relating to the extinguishment of a public path which crossed a railway, otherwise than by tunnel or bridge was contained within Sections 118A (extinguishments) and 119A (diversions) of the Highways Act 1980. She quoted the relevant extracts as follows:
(i) The Council may make an Order to extinguish or divert a public path if it is satisfied that it is expedient in the interests of the safety of users or likely users of at grade crossings.
(ii) Particular consideration has to be given to whether or not it is reasonably practicable to make the existing crossing safe for the public and what arrangements will be made to erect and maintain barriers and signs at the closed crossing.
(6) The Definition Officer added that there were two relevant extracts of Government Guidance contained within Rights of Way circular (1/09). The first of these set out that “the order may extinguish the right of way on the crossing itself and for so much of its length as the authority deems expedient from the crossing to its intersection with another highway over which there subsists a right of way.” The second specified that “the new way should be reasonably convenient to the public and authorities should have regard to the effect that the proposal will have on the land served by the existing path or way and on the land over which the new path or way is to be created. Consideration should also be given to the ... view the full minutes text for item 8.