Fairness in railway planning for all UK communities

This is about fairness.

Network Rail, GTR, and Greater Anglia are claiming that they can build an industrial trainwash in a residential area without the kind of planning oversight that most development requires. We think that’s wrong – for us, and for all UK communities. Local residents are being denied the right to have a real say about a major industrial development with a serious impact on their lives. That’s simply not fair.

The trainwash reflects a deeper problem of serious inequities in the UK’s train planning system, which leaves already embattled communities struggling with development decisions taken without their consent, consultation, or recourse to appeal.

Taking away people’s rights to be involved in decisions that fundamentally affect their lives undermines local communities and the sense of place and identity that bind people together. We think it’s time to take a stand.

Communities are being denied fair planning across the UK

This is not just our fight, it’s a fight for all communities who want both the right to decide about their community planning and the right to a well-planned railway that fits everyone’s needs. We are already aware of two communities dealing with the same problem. If it can happen to us, it can happen to you.



Fairness in community planning

Everyone else in the UK has to apply for more planning permission than the railways. The railways rely on two laws:

  • The Railways Clauses Consolidation Act 1845 (RCC Act 1845), Section 16 of which enables railway companies “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” without requiring planning.
  • The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 2015, which specifies development that allowed with or without planning permission. Part 8 (Transport Related Development) and Part 18 (Miscellaneous Development; Class A – development under local or private Acts or Order) relates to “A. Development by railway undertakers on their operational land, required in connection with the movement of traffic by rail.”

The set of things for which development is not permitted (Class A.1 – See our other planning post and the logic-defying definition of when cleaning applies.), is the problem.

  • It fails to provide clarity on where it is and is not appropriate to build facilities with respect to residential areas.
  • It does not place a burden on the railways to demonstrate their choice of siting facilities to Local Planning Authorities.

There is a well specified and transparent process, called a Certificate of Lawful Development, that allows Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) to see why a given development is being built in a particular place, the plans for the development, and then accept, reject, or require conditions upon the siting or the building. Why should a railway be exempt from such a process?

The railways claim, of course, that it would be too much burden on them to go through this procedure for every piece of work. But this dodges the issue. They want to claim this as a blanket right for all development instead of exploring when it would and would not be a reasonable burden. Residential areas should require this burden from the railways.

Fairness in railway planning

We are pro-rail, but we are also want better rail planning. Network Rail, GTR, and Greater Anglia make many claims about how this development is necessary to improve services overall and must be situated in this particular location for operational reasons. They say “This drive to support the city’s community and economy through improved transport links, requires an improved railway depot on sidings next to Cambridge station, to store and service new and improved trains.”

But where is the evidence that this is the only or best location? Where are the overall planning documents that show how the railway services are being planned and how this facilty fits into it?

We have already questioned where the site Options Appraisal is for this development. An Options Appraisal is a standard planning process that lays out the reasons for choosing one site from among several options, and the subsequent issues.

But what about the bigger picture? The railways do have sites that propose to make long-term planning (LTPP) more transparent, such as the Network Rail Long-Term Planning site. But can we trust them? Unfortunately they make trusting them very difficult.

  • The planning page for the Eastern region Anglia route does not mention the current development. How is this possible when the work is in progress?
  • The Anglia Route Strategic Plan document from 18 January 2018 does not mention this proposed train wash facility, or any other, or even the words “wash” or “clean”. [Network Rail link] How is this possible if a permitted development submissions were being made just months later (see our Planning page]?