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 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.



Daniel Zeichner MP urges trainwash planning, GTR stays silent

We hope that everyone who reads this is safe and well in this extraordinary time. We realise that the current circumstances have put a lot of other things on hold and into greater perspective. But we also know that when the world returns to more normal business, we will still face the prospect of GTR and their partners attempting to develop an industrial trainwash in the middle of a residential area. This will still be wrong.

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. Daniel has not reported a response from GTR or their partners.

GTR also cancelled their March 24 community consultation meeting due to the COVID-19 lockdown and promised a virtual community meeting in its place, but have so far failed to organise a date and time.

Mr. Zeichner  reiterates the community’s point that the planning process has been opaque:

…there appears to be little transparency about what is intended for residents to
be confident the facility will not adversely impact their lives in respect of noise pollution, vibration, it
being overbearing (due to the dimensions of the facility), the use of chemicals and so-on.

He makes it clear that this project should pause for a planning process:

My view is that GTR should pause any commencement of the project until these important issues are
clarified and all questions can be answered, with the relevant details and plans supplied. While I
recognise the strategic importance of the facility in terms of helping with future expansion of the rail
network, community buy-in and support – as I am sure you will agree – is crucial for the successful
delivery of any project.

Like residents, Mr. Zeichner is pro-rail but also pro-planning: a site options appraisal for locating an industrial facility in behind Great Eastern Street, empirical evidence for claims about the impact of noise, visual, and chemical, environmental pollution, and a full consultation process.

This is about fairness for communities across the UK to a well-planned rail network. The communities through which the railway passes are both customers of the railway companies (GTR and Greater Anglia) and taxpayers who contribute to Network Rail (who own the land). We have the right to the healthy amenity of our natural and built environment. We value improvements in public transport, but that does not have to come at the cost of degraded quality of life. The Anglia Region Long Term Planning Process should explore the many existing industrial and very sparsely populated areas that could support improved rail infrastructure.

Location, location, location

Where is the missing site Options Appraisal?

The precise location of the trainwash facility is at the heart of the community’s concerns.

Steve Lammin, GTR Engineering Director, at the meeting with residents on 16 January 2020, stated that “The train wash is unable to be sited elsewhere due to the infrastructure of the railway.

This statement is an inadequate justification of a decision with such fundamental consequences for residents.  It seems extraordinary that there are no other location options in the East Anglian region (this being the region that the trainwash will serve). This is especially the case given that the Cambridge North station, surrounded by the industrial area of the Cambridge Science Park and a reasonably sparsely populated rural area, was only finished in 2017. Why was this facility not included in that development? Why is it not suitable now?

The normal process for a decision of such magnitude is to conduct an Options Appraisal.  This is an impartial and objective methodology, undertaken in the early stages of any complex project, and is defined by the Local Government Association as follows: 

An options appraisal is a technique for reviewing options and analysing the costs and benefits of each one. It helps to ensure informed decision making by providing a process that requires:

  • the key objectives that must be achieved to be identified
  • the different ways of achieving these objectives to be described and
  • the pros and cons of each of these ways to be considered in terms of the benefits (financial and non financial) that they can deliver.

Local residents would therefore expect GTR and Network Rail to have undertaken such an Options Appraisal, and in the interests of transparency and accountability request that this document now be made publicly available.

In the event that an Options Appraisal has not been undertaken, residents believe that GTR/Network Rail should apply for a Certificate of Lawful Development, which would provide an appropriate forum in which an Options Appraisal could be undertaken.

A trainwash is for cleaning, except when it isn’t?

Network Rail declines to apply for a Certificate of Lawful Development by denying the definition of industrial process

Isometric view of a carriage washOn 06 March 2020, Chris Penn, GTR’s Stakeholder Manager, sent our campaign an email update. Among other issues, it copied in Network Rail’s declination of the Cambridge City Council’s request to apply for a Certificate for Lawful Development. A Certificate of Lawful Development would provide full transparency about the choice of location and effects on the amenity of the community of the trainwash.

One part of our campaign is to argue that an industrial facility does not belong in a residential area. This brings up the question of what is an industrial process, and whether a trainwash is an industrial process.

The relevant definition of an industrial process is in the The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted
Development) (England) Order 2015. Schedule 2 Part 8 says (emphasis added):

“a process for or incidental to any of the following purposes … (b) the altering, repairing, maintaining, ornamenting, finishing, cleaning, washing, packing, canning, adapting for sale, breaking up or demolition of any article….”

In their 06 March 2020 response, Network Rail say (emphasis added):

As the proposed carriage wash is for the cleaning of trains within a railway depot, it is not considered that this represents an ‘industrial process’ and therefore does not meet the definition.  

Network Rail’s own use of the term “cleaning” in this description is exactly one of the terms in the definition of “industrial process”.

On this point alone, Network Rail has finally introduced certainty where there was previously uncertainty – but contrary to their claim, this certainty is not in their favour. This facility is for cleaning and therefore is not permitted development and should require a Certificate of Lawful development.

To argue otherwise defies all logic.

We call on the Cambridge City Council to take this matter further in their response to Network Rail.

We call on GTR and Greater Anglia to halt all development until their partner Network Rail provides the Certificate of Lawful development. GTR and Greater Anglia are risking taxpayer money on a facility that could later be shut down.

Here is the full response from Network Rail on 06 March 2020

The following is excerpted from an email sent on 06 March 2020 by Chris Penn, GTR’s Stakeholder Manager. We are currently reviewing the full email and will publish it in full soon, but are happy to provide it upon request for press or other relevant interested parties. There are more issues than just the definition of “industrial process” in this section and indeed the whole email. We will respond further to this when the Cambridge City Council has responded.

Network Rail have sent the following to Greater Cambridge Planning in the response to the request for a Certificate of Lawful Development:

I write in respect of the works to provide Carriage Wash facilities to the east of Mill Road Cambridge, as shown in plan F535-GTR-DRG-CV-000081 Rev P01. The works is part of the wider Thameslink Project, which aims to upgrade and increase existing Depot facilities at Cambridge Depot.

I note that there have been a number of questions from local residents and other interested parties as to whether planning consent is required for the works. This email is to provide clarification on the nature of the works and confirmation of the utilisation of permitted development. 

Proposed Works

The proposed works consist of:

  • Removal of existing life expired carriage wash plant and provision of a twin rotor side brush carriage wash including protective enclosure
  • Provision of associated plant and machinery with water recycling facility including protective enclosure
  • Provision of access road to maintain the Carriage Wash, plant and machinery

Refer to attached general arrangement drawing F535-GTR-DRG-CV-000081 Rev P01 for proposed overall site arrangements.

Permitted Development

The works comprise a railway operational development for which Network Rail has statutory powers and planning permission is therefore granted by virtue of permitted development.

These works do not require planning permission and are permitted by virtue of Part 8 (Transport Related Development) and Part 18 (Miscellaneous Development; Class A – development under local or private Acts or Order) of the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 2015.

Part 8 relates to ‘A. Development by railway undertakers on their operational land, required in connection with the movement of traffic by rail’. The proposed works clearly represent works that are required in connection of the movement of traffic by rail, and are to be undertaken on railway operational land.

A.1 of Part 8 details where development is not permitted.  Development is not permitted if it consists of ‘the construction or erection otherwise wholly within a railway station of – …a building used for an industrial process’. As the proposed carriage wash is for the cleaning of trains within a railway depot, it is not considered that this represents an ‘industrial process’ and therefore does not meet the definition.  The proposed development does not fall into any of the categories listed within these exceptions and is therefore clearly permitted by Part 8.

In respect of Part 18, the works meet the definition of ‘A. Development authorised by— (a) a local or private Act of Parliament,’. Importantly, the proposed works do not meet the criteria set out within A.1 of Part 18, and an application for Prior Approval is not required.

The railway in this location was authorised by the Eastern Counties Railway (Brandon & Peterborough Extension) Act 1844. The subsequent Great Eastern Railway Act 1862 was to apply the Railways Clauses Consolidation Act 1845 (RCC Act 1845) general provisions to all of the Great Eastern Railway.

Section 16 of the RCC Act 1845 enlarges upon the works which may be carried out and this includes the power, stating ‘They may erect and construct such houses, warehouses, offices, and other buildings, yards, stations, wharfs, engines, machinery, apparatus and other works and conveniences as they think proper;’. A copy of Section 16 of the Act is attached for your information.

Based on the information above Network Rail is firmly of the view that the work is permitted development and no planning permission is required.

Certificate of Lawful Development

I understand that the question of whether a Certificate of Lawful Development (CLD) is required has been asked. Network Rail utilises permitted development on a daily basis to deliver much needed work required to operate the railway in a safe and efficient manner. The intention of permitted development is to allow for works to take place without needing to seek permission from the Local Planning Authority, and to allow for the works to take place without having to wait for the completion of the application process. 

If Network Rail were to apply for a CLD for all work that is permitted development, or even a small proportion of work, it would result in significant additional cost, delay to projects and need for significant additional resource. Furthermore, it also sets a precedent whereby CLD applications may be requested by other Local Authorities. This is not something that Network Rail can commit to.

Given that the work is clearly permitted development it is considered that a Certificate of Lawful Development is unnecessary on this occasion.