Demolition of historic railway station put on hold
PUBLISHED: 14:08 03 August 2020 | UPDATED: 18:54 03 August 2020
The controversial demolition of a historic railway station has been put on hold after a judge ordered the decision to be reconsidered.
Greater Anglia’s £1m bid to knock down Brandon Railway Station and replace it with additional parking had looked on course following approval from Breckland Council in May.
The rail operator’s plans attracted significant opposition from councillors and the community, who said part of the town’s heritage was being destroyed.
Brandon is famous for once being at the centre of the flint industry and its characterful station building featured in classic BBC sitcom, Dad’s Army.
But, having pledged to continue fighting, campaign group SAVE Britain’s Heritage launched judicial proceedings and, on July 30, Mrs Justice Lang of the High Court ordered in private that the consent should be quashed and the application revisited.
While there is hope the station could now be saved, Breckland’s planning department may yet reach the same decision when it revisits the case over the coming months.
SAVE has, nevertheless, begun working with Suffolk Building Preservation Trust on new plans to revitalise the station - and is confident they will eventually come to fruition.
Marcus Binney, executive president of SAVE Britain’s Heritage, said: “This shows that determination, persistence and resourcefulness can bring back historic buildings on death row.
“We have already commissioned plans by the architect Doug Reid, obtained initial costs from builders, and will now be working with the Suffolk Building Preservation Trust on raising finance.
“Many local people objected passionately to the demolition proposal, and some thought it was a lost cause. Now we have an opportunity for it to live again after standing boarded up for 16 years.”
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Brandon town councillor and train enthusiast, Peter Ridgwell, was thrilled at the latest development.
He said: “It’s great news, which was released on a very special day. We found out on July 30 and on that same day, July 30 in 1845, the line was opened which linked Great Yarmouth, Norwich and London.
“I was never going to give up the fight because this is our heritage and it’s not just for us - it’s for our generations to come. Our forefathers built this station with love and attention and the finest flint in the world.”
Fellow campaigner Andy Erlham, who previously attempted to purchase the £1m building from Greater Anglia for £100, added: “I’m really pleased. Brandon has very few historic buildings of any merit and there was so much anger among the local population.
“SAVE Britain’s Heritage deserves the credit. Brandon has been pushed around for years. That will now stop. Brandon needs action.”
Responding to Justice Lang’s order, Greater Anglia said it had worked with the community for a decade to find a viable restoration solution, but a “workable proposition” had not been found.
The company has highlighted an increased number of passengers using Brandon station and travelling to Ely, Cambridge and beyond as a key consideration for its potential redevelopment.
A Greater Anglia spokesman said: “The original permitted development consent was quashed, and the application has been returned to Breckland Council to be redetermined.
“The building has been disused for decades and is in a poor condition. The rail industry has never been funded or remitted by any government to restore it, and no fully-funded third party scheme or business case has ever been put forward that would enable its restoration.
“Brandon is a growing town and we have seen the number of people using the station increase year on year. We want to invest in the station facilities to make it fit for purpose - for both now and in the future.
“We are looking to invest £1m to improve the customer facilities at the station and increase the number of car parking spaces from six to 100.
“We will continue to work with Breckland District Council to upgrade Brandon railway station for our customers.”
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