ANGRY residents have accused Network Rail of “arrogance” after the company confirmed it was proceeding with its application to build a substation at Sandy Lane, Aughton after considering alternative sites.
However, neighbours who are bitterly opposed to the scheme on Green Belt land, say they are “very disappointed” claiming the rail company has refused to engage with them and casting doubts on whether it had actually considered placing the construction elsewhere.
When the plans to build the substation to supply power for new trains to be introduced next year were first submitted in January they immediately sparked an angry reaction.
Residents labelled the proposed structure - comprising three metal buildings, each about 3.5 metres high, 10 metres long and 3 metres wide - a “monstrosity” and claimed there were less-intrusive sites in the area that could accommodate it, further away from dwellings.
They also feared it would be a ‘blot on the landscape’, destroying wildlife habitats and causing noise and health concerns. At an initial meeting with the local community in March Network Rail said it would consider alternative sites.
However, the company has since confirmed that it is still pursuing plans to build at the Sandy Lane site.
The application was due to be heard at a planning committee meeting last week but was withdrawn from consideration “for further negotiation” but the same plans will be presented again at the next planning meeting on June 20.
The rail company says multiple sites were considered and that Sandy Lane was selected because there is an existing access road to the railway which will reduce disruption in construction and maintenance. Also, it says the power supply is low in the area and the unit will be able to provide the extra power required to run trains effectively.
A Network Rail spokesperson said: “A new substation is vital to provide the extra power needed for the arrival of new state-of-the-art Merseyrail trains on the Ormskirk line.
“We’ve investigated several sites near to the
railway in Aughton and have submitted a planning application for the area near Sandy Lane.”
“While that application is being considered we will continue to engage with the local community and investigate ways to minimise the impact to local people.”
A spokesperson for the residents, Mick Freeman, responded: “We are very disappointed and challenge the fact that several sites were considered before choosing the one on Sandy Lane.
“There is a feeling that Network Rail’s overall stance is arrogant. With regards to their engagement with the local community they have declined an invite to a meeting to discuss the situation and are increasingly difficult to contact.”
Hopes that an alternative site would be chosen had already been dealt a blow after West Lancs Council’s director of development and regeneration, John Harrison, recommended that the planning committee approve Network Rail’s plans.
Mr Harrison acknowledged that the development would harm Green Belt and have an adverse impact on the “character and visual quality of the locality”, which he said would be partly mitigated by landscape planting.
However, he said such harm would be outweighed by the significant wider environmental, social and economic benefits arising out of sustainable transport in comparison to the use of private petrol and diesel-driven vehicles.
Mr Freeman said they were still hopeful that the plan might be rejected though as local councillors have either opposed or expressed neutrality on the matter, while the local parish council had come out in support of the residents.