Make some noise: Quash the trainwash

What was that noise?

Residents of Romsey and Cambridge were rudely awakened by piling work reaching over 89 decibels at 4:30am this morning. See the video in the tweet below. This was just the first of many nights of work to come in a project run by NetworkRail, GTR, Greater Anglia, and Spencer Group, to build an enormous industrial trainwash immediately behind Great Eastern Street. Sign and share our petition at https://change.org/quashthetrainwash

There is a lot more building noise to come

GTR have said publicly in a leaflet (which was only distributed to small number of residents) that more work will happen on the nights of July 18 & 23. They also wrote privately to one resident specifying many more nights and days of work throughout all July and August.

On the 12th and 19th July the works will run from Midnight to 06:30. Early Sunday morning on the 12th we will be installing a new steel pile and steel structure in the location shown on the plan. We are also removing the wires to the North Sidings. On the following two Saturday nights/Early Sunday mornings we are carrying out modification works to the existing overhead wires mainly around the headshunt area. On Sunday 23d August the works will again start at midnight on the 23rd to 06:30. These works have to take place between midnight and 06:30 as this is the only time that Network Rail can turn off the electricity to the overhead wires. On Sunday 26th July the works will be in the daytime – 0800 to 1800 and likewise for Sunday 2nd August, 9th August and 6th August.

And that’s still not all. All is just enabling work for the trainwash itself – a ~33m long, ~9m high, ~7m wide building full of machinery that will operate 24/7/365, primarily between the hours of 1800 and 0600, with peak hours between 2300 and 0400. The machinery itself will create noise and there will also be considerable noise from up to four trains an hour will passing through it. The noise will never end.

The work does not have a Certificate of Lawful Development

Not only is this building and then operating noise never going to end, but the Cambridge City Council agrees with residents’ legal opinion that the entire project does not fit the definition of Permitted Development (see our legal opinion and the CCC’s agreement). Network Rail failed to seek Prior Approval in the form of a Certificate of Lawful Development.

An industrial trainwash does not belong in a residential area

Residents of Great Eastern Street and the wider community have been fighting for the railway companies to undergo a full planning process for a facility that may become the primary washing point for trains in East Anglia just 25m behind homes. Little meaningful consideration has been taken for the health and amenity of residents on the street or the wider community. We are not anti-rail. We depend on the railway, choose to live near it, and would be content for it to continue as is. Our concern is for the industrial scale of this proposed facility and where it could be appropriately situated.

What can you do?

Make one or more noise complaints

Let the CCC know about the disturbance and that GTR and Spencer should be fully aware of the consequences of contravening the regulations concerning noise disturbance to residents by construction work during unsociable hours.

When it happens at night again:

Immediately call the Cambridge City Council out of hours noise complaint number: 0300 303 8389

Complain about the ongoing noise problems:

Email the Cambridge Out of hours environmental health team

Email the manager of environmental health services

Email the contractor, Spencer Group, attn Diane Rowe (you can also try calling 01482 766340 but the number may not work)

Email the developer, GTR, attn Chris Penn and Steve Lammin

Help us complain about building an industrial trainwash in a residential area

Email the contractor, Spencer Group, attn Diane Rowe (you can also try calling 01482 766340 but the number may not work)

Write to the developer, GTR, attn Chris Penn and Steve Lammin

Publicise the problem on Twitter using #quashthetrainwash

Daniel Zeichner MP renews call for NetworkRail to suspend trainwash work

Daniel Ziechner, MP for Cambridge, has backed our call for NetworkRail to suspend work on the trainwash until such time as it has been through a planning process.

On the basis of our legal opinion and the CCC’s legal opinion, this development requires Prior Approval, which Network Rail did not seek.

Zeicher notes two points in particular. First, that work should be suspended to address the large number of unanswered questions about this particular development:

all works to be suspended until at least such time the stakeholders provide updated, suitable and full answers to the questions that have been
previously submitted by Cambridge City Council in February of this year.

And second, that the siting of the train wash in Cambridge has not been sufficiently addressed. An industrial train wash does not belong in a residential area:

The residents also would like Network Rail, and the associated rail franchisees, to provide a full and frank account for why the carriage wash facility was proposed for the main Cambridge rail station and not further up the line nearer Cambridge North. To assist with this response, they ask for disclosure of the complete options appraisal that was used to make the decision to site the facility at the former over the latter station.

This need to suspend work now is especially pressing because of the proposed “foundation” work on July 11, 18, and 25, referred to the leaflet distributed to residents on June 24. We have been informed by the CCC that this work will involve “piling” – a term that was not mentioned in the leaflet.

We understand that piling “is a type of deep foundation, used to transfer the load to a deeper level than is possible with a traditional shallow foundation. Vertical columns of concrete, steel or wood, or a combination, are driven deep into the ground to give extra support.”

NetworkRail, GTR, Greater Anglia, and Spencer Group have not provided any evaluation of the effect of piling on foundations in Great Eastern Street. Foundation damage is possible unless a detailed and in depth structural analysis has been done on the surrounding area.

NetworkRail has not sought Prior Approval. As such, we believe that any work currently undertaken is at risk of damage claims on the basis of being ruled not just unlawful but also aggravated due to being continued in the face of, at the very least, legal uncertainty,and at most, a known overreach of NetworkRail’s authority.

As developers and contractors, GTR and Spencer Group, have a responsibility to both their shareholders/beneficiaries and the Cambridge community to suspend unlawful work, including enabling work, while this issue is under review.

GTR and Spencer Group have the opportunity to demonstrate that you are “good neighbours”, by suspending work voluntarily rather than by enforcement. The community would consider this a show of good faith,

Daniel Zeichner’s full letter is below.

Letter5143

Unlawful: CCC agrees trainwash requires prior approval

In an email to residents, Stephen Kelly, Joint Director of Planning and Economic Development, confirmed on Monday 6 July that the Great Eastern Street train wash require prior approval of the Cambridge City Council. Mr Kelly wrote:

The Council have now had a response from Network Rail and have had an opportunity to consider that response further. I have accordingly emailed Network Rail today to advise them that in the opinion of the LPA, the works to construct the train wash building require the Prior Approval of the LPA by virtue of Class A of Part 18 of Schedule 2 of the Town and Country Planning General Permitted Development Order.

Network Rail, GTR, Greater Anglia, and their contractor Spencer Group appear to have overreached their authority.

It is especially urgent that we received this confirmation of our position yesterday because the companies plan to start enabling works this weekend on July 11. While a leaflet was sent to residents indicating that some foundational works were to begin, noting noise in the evenings, we have now heard that this work will involve ‘Piling’. “Piling is a type of deep foundation, used to transfer the load to a deeper level than is possible with a traditional shallow foundation. Vertical columns of concrete, steel or wood, or a combination, are driven deep into the ground to give extra support.”

NetworkRail, GTR, Greater Anglia, and Spencer Group have not provided any evaluation of the effect of piling on foundations in Great Eastern Street. Foundation damage is possible unless a detailed and in depth structural analysis has been done on the surrounding area.

We urge Network Rail, GTR, Greater Anglia, and Spencer group to act like the good neighbours they claim to be and agree to pause this work at least until such time as the lawfulness of this development is established.

If the companies will themselves step up, we urge the Cambridge City Council to enforce a pause on this work at least until such time as the lawfulness of this development is established.

GTR’s disappointing response to Daniel Zeichner MP

On March 26th, Daniel Zeichner, MP for Cambridge, sent a letter to GTR urging them and their partners to enter into a full planning process.

On May 4th, Steve Lammin from GTR responded to Daniel Zeicher (see link for PDF).

Lammin re-iterates that GTR is managing the development and not responsible for the planning permission. But given the very uncertain legal status of this lack of planning process, we are surprised that GTR and its partners are willing to risk continuing.

Lamming claims that “We are committed to being a good neighbour, and want to ensure that the depot upgrade will have as little impact on the local community as possible. This includes addressing the residents’ concerns and sharing information whenever we can.” The evidence for this is two meetings in 2019 and 2020, despite the note that this was supposedly all a done deal in 2018, and work must have started earlier. Is two brief meetings (and now one online) and a few one page newsletters starting at at least a year afterwards is “being a good neighbour?”

GTR meeting on May 13

The next GTR hosted meeting is May 13 at 18:30 via Microsoft Teams

If you already have the link from last week, it should work this week. If not, write to us at info@quashthetrainwash.org for the link.

We will be pursuing the following issues:

  1. Why work is continuing on the project despite its uncertain legal status
  2. GTR’s decision-making process, timing, and choice of location
  3. Questions outstanding from the last meeting and FAQ

GTR has provided an agenda and a presentation:Cambridge sidings upgrade meeting Online May 2020

  • 18:30 – Welcome
  • 18:35 – Presentation
  • Steve Lammin – GTR​
  • · Our response to Covid-19​
  • · Work on site​
  • · Noise and vibration​
  • · Shade and lighting​
  • · Enclosure​
  • ​Laura Kopelciw – Network Rail​
  • · Project timeline​
  • · Planning​
  • Iain Warner – Greater Anglia​
  • · Operations of sidings and wash​
  • · Train movements
  • 19:00 – Discussion
  • 20:00 – Close

Legal action

Update – June 24th

On June 22 we blogged that the trainwash site preparation may have begun without permission. Today residents received a letter that provides more evidence that this is the case. The letter indicates that work to be done from now will include:

“Installation of New Overhead Wires including Foundations and Steel Structures
Ground work in the central area and starting to upgrade the North sidings”

The Cambridge City Council’s Joint Director of Planning and Economic Development, Stephen Kelly, has indicated that Network Rail is dragging its feet in responding to CCC. On May 22 Mr Kelly told us that “Following the Councils own advice, I wrote earlier this month to Network Rail seeking clarification on a number of specific matters to assist the Planning Authority in determining the matter of lawfulness and have not yet received a response. I have accordingly written again today to try and determine when I might receive a response from them.”

This is unacceptable. We call on GTR, Network Rail, Greater Anglia, and Spencer Group to pause development until they have been through a planning process.

And for the first time we are publishing the legal advice in full that we sent to the CCC, which indicates “that the carriage-wash does require planning permission and that
it is not permitted development under the GPDO. In any event, even if it is concluded that it is permitted development, prior approval is required.”

Carriagewash Opinion A Parkinson 6 May 2020

 

Update – May 11th

GTR’s proposed presentation for May 13 (Cambridge sidings upgrade meeting Online May 2020) continues to state that “Network Rail and GTR are clear that the works are permitted development under Section 16 of the Railway Causes Consolidation Act 1845. It is therefore considered that a Certificate of Lawful
Development is not required.”

However, they have addressed neither of the arguments about the definition of an industrial process or building, both of which would require a more involved planning process. Given this uncertain legal status, we believe that Spencer Group, as a responsible contractor, and GTR, as the developer, should pause development and apply for a Certificate of Lawful Development so that the community can have the issues of injury to amenity properly explored.

Update – May 6th

This morning our legal team sent an updated and expanded letter about our legal position to the Cambridge City Council. The reason for the expansion is to provide the CCC with as full a position in law as we can while they are briefing their own legal team. This expensive private process, of course, in lieu of the genuine pub;ic consultation process that this whole development should have gone through in the first place.

We await the CCC’s response.

We note with interest that the very morning we sent our second letter, GTR coincidentally postponed its community meeting.

Original – April 24

On 17 April 2020 our legal team wrote to the Cambridge City Council outlining the position of the community. This letter ratified and expanded on our belief that the law should require Network Rail (and its partners GTR and Greater Anglia) to put the trainwash application through a planning process, due to the definitions of “industrial process” and “building”.

The Cambridge City Council sent its response on 24 April 2020. While the CCC is being cautious, that the CCC is currently seeking further legal advice is a win for the community. It indicates at the very least that the position Network Rail, GTR, and Greater Anglia is not as cut and dried as they have claimed.

Our goal is to see the trainwash development undergo a full and transparent planning process to assess its impact on the amenity of the community. Every community should have the right to transparent planning. Network Rail, GTR, and Greater Anglia should have actively sought this at least in 2018 when they were applying for permission to alter the Mill Road Bridge. However, the issue of planning goes further back to when the Cambridge North station was being developed. We are currently looking into this. In the meantime, we will be continuing with further legal action.