Railway footbridge 10565 is one of the countless crossings of the main line to London erected since Brunel linked Bristol Temple Meads to Paddington on behalf of the Great Western Railway Company.
On board a train approaching Bath you wouldn’t notice it as you peer out ready to take in a view of the city’s fine Georgian terraces. Nothing more than a strip of rusting metal flashing by across your carriage window but an important route over the years for people crossing the line from the towpath of the Kennet and Avon Canal to a terrace of houses known as Hampton Row.
Once upon a time trains stopped here at a modest little platformed ‘halt’ but that has long disappeared.
As part of Network Rail’s very expensive electrification programme of the line from London to Bristol and beyond this bridge has been examined to see if there is sufficient clearance for power cables and pylons.
It’s been decided that will mean its demolition and replacement by a footbridge designed to span the track at a higher level and with a bigger footprint into the dead-ended road.
Just a little further along the line the listed bridges through Sydney Gardens have been saved from major reconstruction by lowering the track. The little footbridge is not getting the same treatment.
The public has until today – to comment on proposals and already there have been objections concerning its bulk, spread and colour.
The bridge is a vital link for the people trying to raise money to re-open Bath’s open air Georgian lido at Cleveland Pools. Tucked away on the riverside behind the top end of Hampton Row.
The Chair of the Trust, Ann Dunlop, said in her letter of objection:
‘We feel that the design of the new structure will have an adverse visual impact on the setting of the At Risk Listed buildings in Hampton Row. Also, the bridge extends much further out into the road and will destroy much of the existing parking spaces.
This footbridge is a vital link to the Pools in Hampton Row from the canal towpath which delivers people from the city centre and beyond in a traffic freeway, many by bicycle. We were disappointed that we could not see evidence of a wheel rail in the current design and would ask that the applicant is encouraged to include this to aid cyclists.
Some of the trustees are in conversation already with representatives of Network Rail about the possibility of the provision of cycle parking on Network Rail owned land adjacent to the footbridge.’
Meanwhile Ric Jerrom – who lives in Hampton Row – emailed Bath Newseum to tell me:
‘Well, the contractors are seeking permission from B&NES to replace the existing – rather battered, but not inappropriate as to scale, design, materials &c – footbridge with a new one. Higher – to clear the cables carrying the overhead electricity supply for the eventual trains – and with a far larger “footprint”, extending much further into the street.
Click on the link below to see the proposal:
It is, it seems, to be of shiny green metal construction, rather like a climbing frame in an ill-planned children’ playground. The context needs to be seen, really: Brunel’s wall is a magnificent thing, towering above the rail tracks; on the other side is a fence, the road – then the modest but special Georgian terrace of workers’ houses. I declare my interest. I live at no. 5.
There are, or were, alternatives: the tracks have been lowered enough for there to be clearance at the pretty bridges in Sydney Gardens: a little lower at Hampton Row? Not, it seems. “Jacking” the existing structure is a possibility; but again, no. I think that the sensitivity of the context demands at least a bridge especially designed to fit, not this off – the – peg, a garish eyesore. ‘
Cllr Lisa Brett has also written to B&NES to lodge her objections:
‘1. The proposed footbridge by reason of its size, depth, width, height and massing will result in an incongruous and visually dominant over-bearing form of development, which detracts from the appearance of the surrounding area. It is, therefore, contrary to saved Policies D.2 and D.4 of the Bath and North East Somerset Local Plan including minerals and wastes policies adopted October 2007.
In being unsympathetic to the appearance and character of the local environment in a conservation area, this proposal also contravenes: Policy BH.6 of the B&NES Local Plan that states that:
“Development within or affecting a Conservation Area will only be permitted where it preserves or enhances the character or appearance of the area, in terms of size, scale, form, massing, position, suitability of external materials, design and detailing
2. The proposal will result in a damaging loss of local amenity in the form of parking spaces for bikes and cars. The Bathwick Estate already suffers from considerable parking congestion, hence the introduction of a controlled parking scheme, any additional loss of parking will increase the strain on parking beyond that which residents can reasonably expect.
I would request that, should you be minded to permit this development, it is referred to the development control committee for their consideration.’
Another Hampton Row resident who isn’t happy with the proposal is Mr Richard Cooper:
‘I object to this plan for a few reasons: It’s size, The old bridge seems to have been quite satisfactory for 150 years or so.
The width and pitch of the steps have caused no problems that I have seen in the 30 odd years I have lived at the foot of them. Even allowing for the extra height required, it seems wrong to erect such a large structure extending up the road as proposed , taking up already scarce parking ( and this before refurbishment of derelict houses)
The design, It looks as if it were designed from the ground plan only, without any regard for the special setting it will dominate. The old bridge has an individual feel, it fits the space, linking two grade 2 listed structures, the splendid canal retaining wall and Hampton Row. The proposed bridge will look like any other in a soulless development. It surely would not be beyond present day technologies to adapt the existing bridge, challenging ,yes.
The finish, I see it is proposed to have a shiny bright green (holly) paint job. How could that ever be appropriate? I have seen the replacement bridge at Shockerwick (again replacing charming old one) and it jars terribly, though at least there no one has it right in front of their windows. If we have to have this monstrosity, then it could at least have a flat grey finish perhaps.
It’s unclear how one is to access the lower footpath on the canal side of the bridge, though I note ‘others’ will have to sort out the steps up,to the towpath.’
Paul Stevens is the owner of numbers 10 to 16 Hampton Row – the derelict end of the terrace that has been an eyesore for years.Hampton Row was blighted by proposals for a relief road that never happened!
In his submission he says:
‘The construction in the above proposals are an encroachment upon MY land, stops the access to these properties. I have NOT been approached regarding the SIZE, DESIGN etc despite the fact that Network Rail are fully knowledgeable of my ownership and my e mail ( I came across this application by accident on the website ) the fact that this proposal is much higher by approx 2 mtrs than the original which take away the privacy of these dwellings by the fact that members of the public using this higher and closer proximity bridge will have a direct sight line into the windows of these premises .
I obviously object in the strongest possible way to this proposal.
The new bridge is far longer and out of line with the original which makes it encroach onto my land and far too close and overbearing and it takes away the access and light to my properties that I have received planning consent to develop…’
The last word to Joanna Haylock – another resident of Hampton Row:
‘This proposed huge green shiny bridge will have a massive detrimental impact on this sensitive area between listed Georgian cottages and a lovely listed wall. Whilst
Whilst I realise a new bridge is needed, perhaps something more in keeping with the area would be possible, even dull grey would be better than green.
There will be a substantial loss of access and parking in an area where permission has just been granted to increase the housing capacity at the end of Hampton Row.
Also, it seems that no provision has been made for the very many cyclists and pushchairs that use this bridge.’
Network Rail gave Bath Newseum the following statement:
“Network Rail is making the largest investment in the Great Western Mainline since Brunel. The eventual electrification of the line will bring longer, faster more frequent trains, better and more reliable infrastructure. In order to do this, we need to undertake work throughout the Bath area. Network Rail recognises the sensitivities of the area, part of which is a World Heritage Site and is engaging widely with a range of stakeholders about the programme of work. The Hampton Row footbridge needs to be replaced as part of this programme of work.”
Network Rail has submitted a design to BANES and members of the public are able to make comments directly to the council. We plan to undertake further engagement with local residents who live by the bridge soon, to understand their concerns and to explain the design that has been submitted. The bridge is not a listed structure and so does not require listed building consent to remove, however we are keen to understand the views of the local community.”
“We are currently awaiting feedback from BANES.”