Concerns over level crossing to be sorted before holiday-park permission granted

Transport chiefs have now had their say on a major new tourist development in Northumberland which was previously given the nod by councillors.

The proposed site of the holiday park near Widdrington. Picture from Google
The proposed site of the holiday park near Widdrington. Picture from Google

Plans for the large holiday park of hundreds of static and touring caravans, on the former Steadsburn opencast mine site, were approved by 12 votes to two at the December meeting of the county council’s strategic planning committee.

However, this was subject to several matters being ironed out, not least a holding objection from Network Rail, which was worried about potential increased risk at nearby level crossings on the East Coast Mainline, although this was only one of the concerns of residents in nearby Widdrington.

In its response, which has now been submitted to the council, Network Rail ‘remains concerned that the caravan site and leisure facilities will result in significant additional usage of Felton Lane level crossing.

‘This is a concern because of the configuration and width of the road adjacent to the crossing and the possibility that additional traffic on Felton Lane may lead to blocking-back onto the crossing.’

The railway body adds that it ‘would not object to the application if the scheme includes specific signage at the site exit saying no right turn and at the junction with the A1 and Felton Lane (C117) that there is no access to the caravan site and leisure facilities’.

It is also concerned that the public right of way which provides easy access onto Felton Lane is to be upgraded to a bridleway and says that it would like the scheme amended to remove the bridleway status from the section of path that is directly onto the lane.

Darren Anderson, HM Principal Inspector of Railways, from the Office of Rail and Road, agrees that this crossing is ‘wholly unsuitable’ for construction traffic or towing caravans and also has concerns about the bridleway proposal.

He ‘urges that planning conditions be imposed which effectively manage these risks so that they do not negatively impact upon the safety of (road and rail) crossing users’.

Highways England’s response simply recommends that two conditions are attached to the proposal, one that a construction traffic management plan should be agreed before work starts and the other that a full travel plan should be signed off before the park comes into use.

However, resident Max Dallard said that while it is ‘perfectly reasonable’ to insist that all traffic should be routed away from the Felton Lane level crossing, ‘this means that all vehicles – construction, delivery and visitor – would have to access the site via the roundabout in Widdrington Village’.

“This further demonstrates the lack of foresight by the developer and planners, the absence of consideration for the villagers, and supports our claim that our amenity would be seriously affected.”

The plan in question is a hybrid application seeking full permission for the scheme’s first phase and outline approval for the second stage.

Phase one is for the creation of a holiday park with up to 275 static caravan pitches, 200 all-weather pitches for tourers/tents, a two-storey main building, a toilet/shower block, a workshop building, 475 parking spaces, outdoor play provision including a play area and lakeside beach, water-based leisure activities plus roads, footpaths and landscaping.

The main building would include a swimming pool, sauna, indoor play space, catering facilities, reception/office accommodation, beauty treatments floorspace, a laundry area and a small shop.

The phase two works would comprise a further 475 bases for holiday homes with a lakeside café – a nine-hole golf course originally among the proposals was subsequently dropped.

Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service