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Please OBJECT to the planning application to
make the infill at Great Musgrave bridge permanent.

Alongside its profligate exploits in Queensbury Tunnel, the infilling of Great Musgrave bridge in Cumbria represents the most grievous act of National Highways’ eight-year stewardship of the Historical Railways Estate. This was simply an opportunistic exercise in liability reduction, but - in response to the outrage prompted - the state-owned roads company attempted to contrive a distorted reality whereby the structure became a threat to public safety. It was absolutely fine.

Sadly though, National Highways’ culture is so rooted in arrogance that it cannot say sorry or ever admit to being wrong. And so Great Musgrave bridge stands as a hideous monument to its failings.

Infilling kicked the volunteers of two heritage railways firmly in the teeth. Their longstanding aspiration of unification - to boost the local economy - involved relaying a track beneath the structure which needed perhaps £20K of modest repairs to carry vehicles of 40 tonnes. Now, according to National Highways, rehabilitating it for rail traffic could cost £431K, on top of the £124K frittered away on infill. The company does not understand how grotesque that is because it has no grasp as to the value of money in the real world.

National Highways has said it will remove the infill when it becomes the last obstacle to the railways’ reconnection, but this has no legal standing and offers no basis for enforcement. The statement is hollow, perpetuated only for PR purposes.

The infill needs to be removed now and Eden District Council’s requirement that planning permission must be obtained to retain it beyond May 2022 offers an opportunity to force that outcome. But we must all unite to demonstrate our collective rejection of National Highways’ vandalism.

Please OBJECT to the planning application to
make the infill at Great Musgrave bridge permanent.

Via its Local Plan, Eden District Council has adopted several policies upon which objections could be based. These include:

  • Policy DEV3, which states that “Development will not be supported where…it would prevent the future opening of any…rail schemes under consideration.”
  • Policy DEV5, which states that “New development will be required to demonstrate that it…
    • shows a clear understanding of the form and character of the district’s built and natural environment, complementing and enhancing the existing area;
    • protects and where possible enhances the district’s distinctive rural landscape, natural environment and biodiversity;
    • protects features and characteristics of local importance.”
  • Policy ENV1, which states that “New development will be required to avoid any net loss of biodiversity and geodiversity, and where possible enhance existing assets.”
  • Policy ENV2, which states that “New development will only be permitted where it conserves and enhances distinctive elements of landscape character and function. Proposals should take account of and complement the distribution and form of…buildings within their landscape setting.”
  • Policy ENV4, which states that “Development which leads to direct loss, fragmentation or degradation of green infrastructure will be resisted unless there is demonstrable evidence of wider public benefits from the proposal.”
  • Policy ENV10, which states that “The Council will require all proposals for development to conserve and where appropriate, enhance the significance of Eden’s heritage assets and their setting. The effect of an application on the significance of a non-designated heritage asset should be taken into account in determining the application.”

The National Planning Policy Framework also provides grounds for objection, amongst which are:

  • Paragraph 7, which states that “the objective of sustainable development can be summarised as meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
  • Paragraph 81, which states that “Significant weight should be placed on the need to support economic growth and productivity, taking into account both local business needs and wider opportunities for development.” This is relevant in the context of the development’s negative impact on the Eden Valley and Stainmore railways’ intention to unite and deliver an economic boost through tourism.
  • Paragraph 104, which states that “Transport issues should be considered from the earliest stages of plan-making and development proposals, so that the potential impacts of development on transport networks can be addressed; opportunities from existing or proposed transport infrastructure…are realised; opportunities to promote walking, cycling and public transport use are identified and pursued.”
  • Paragraph 174, which states that “Planning policies and decisions should contribute to and enhance the natural and local environment by protecting and enhancing valued landscapes, sites of biodiversity or geological value and soils; recognising the intrinsic character and beauty of the countryside, and the wider benefits from natural capital and ecosystem services; minimising impacts on and providing net gains for biodiversity, including by establishing coherent ecological networks that are more resilient to current and future pressures.”
  • Paragraph 190, which states that “Plans should set out a positive strategy for the conservation and enjoyment of the historic environment, including heritage assets most at risk through neglect, decay or other threats. This strategy should take into account the desirability of sustaining and enhancing the significance of heritage assets, and putting them to viable uses consistent with their conservation; the wider social, cultural, economic and environmental benefits that conservation of the historic environment can bring; the desirability of new development making a positive contribution to local character and distinctiveness; opportunities to draw on the contribution made by the historic environment to the character of a place.”

Please OBJECT to the planning application to
make the infill at Great Musgrave bridge permanent.

The HRE Group's objection

The objection submitted by The HRE Group to National Highways' planning application to retain the infill at Great Musgrave bridge.

April 2022: PDF (3MB)

Help with objecting

A one-page sheet offering help on how to object and relevant policies from Eden District Council's Local Plan that you can refer to.

April 2022: PDF (335kB)

Report into the condition of Great Musgrave bridge and its associated risks

A report written by Bill Harvey Associates - masonry arch specialists - providing a detailed appraisal of the recorded defects, their deterioration and causes, discussion around the bridge’s capacity and the extent to which it was being overloaded, an evaluation of the need for strengthening and the likely future impacts of infilling on the structure.

May 2022: PDF (44MB)

About Us

The HRE Group is an alliance of walking, cycling and heritage campaigners, engineers and greenway developers who regard the Historical Railways Estate’s structures to be strategically valuable in the context of building a better future.

Last updated 17 May 2022
© 2022 The HRE Group