It’s a Sunday morning as I write this. I’m sitting in my front room, 5-week old baby next to me, sipping tea and occasionally glancing out the window where people pass by at a frequent rate, despite this being a quiet, hidden away spot.
They’re all headed for the same thing: Attenborough Nature Reserve -specifically the Meadow Lane entrance.
It’s a fine Winter’s day, mild, still and bright. Families off to build an appetite before a Sunday Roast. Amateur ornithologists hoping to catch a rare migrant who has dropped by. Joggers, clad in tight lycra and red-puffed cheeks. They all pass by, to take in the beautiful pathways and ponds. We are incredibly lucky to have a world-renowned Nature Reserve on our doorsteps.
However, this may all be in danger.
I moved here four years ago with my then girlfriend, now wife. We had vague aspirations to marry and raise a child: and what better place to do so than in a quiet cul-de-sac near the Reserve? It took a bit longer than expected to get the child part of that idea, but now we’ve had him he’s had a fair few pushes around the gravel pits.
It’s great for me too: I, like many others, use the crossing to gain access to the towpath, where I can cycle into Nottingham without having to use roads. As a non-driver, this is crucial.
We – as do all those passing by window today – cross into the reserve via a bridlepath across the train tracks. There is good visibility down the track (you can see both Attenborough and Beeston stations) and it is easy to cross safely.
Network Rail, however, don’t think so. They’ve decided this crossing, along with two others (Long Lane, Barrat’s Lane No.1) are no longer viable, on safety (cost?) grounds and therefore three general options are available (there are variations, please see the scans below).
- Stopping up of all rights over the level crossing: total closure of all access. This would create a detour of 1.5 miles.
- Stepped Footbridge: this would require Network Rail acquiring land, and in some cases, residential properties. It would also exclude crossing by wheelchairs / pushchairs etc.
- Ramped Bridle Bridge: Again, this would require taking land / properties to build, but would mean wheelchairs/ pushchairs etc would have access.
The complete letter, with proposals, can be read here: pdf scan of Network Rail letter.
You may notice that the letter is dated 28th November 2016. This is curious. We only received it on Friday, 16th December. Any excuse that it was delayed through a fault with Royal Mail is unlikely: the birth of our child; and my birthday a week ago saw a fair amount of mail come through. We’ve been quite diligent picking it up.
This delay is exacerbated by the timing of any consultation. The letter states that we must voice any concerns before the end of December 2016. That gives just a fortnight to send in any opposition, a fortnight which, in case it somehow slipped you by, is a bit busy with Christmas right now. A cynic would say that this is no accident.
So what to do? Here is provisional five-point plan.
- MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD: ring 03457 1141 41, quoting reference number TSN1 121m 61ch (or simply say ‘Attenborough Crossings’), or email firstname.lastname@example.org . Tell them you oppose closure, and if something has to be done, a bridge must be built. If you are not quite ready to voice your concerns, ring /email and ask that the consultancy period be extended.
- JOIN A GROUP: I’ve set up a space on Facebook where discussion can be had about the best plan of action. I’ve already had people send in details of similar cases; legal precedents; details on access legality rights. By joining the group, we can discuss progress, share good practise and have a united front.
- WRITE TO YOUR LOCAL REPRESENTATIVE: It looks like the County Council will have the greatest part of this, so contact your councillor and ask them to represent your views. Don’t know who that is? Go to http://www.nottinghamshire.gov.uk/council-and-democracy/councillors/contact-a-councillor and a simple search will give you details.
- TELL OTHERS: I’m not sure how widely these letters were sent out, but I do know that the majority of people who enjoy the path WON’T have been advised: just those in the immediate vicinity. We need to get the message out as wide as possible, particularly to those who don’t use social media as much. Get people talking about it. Share this post on social media. Get them wised up and fired up.
- ATTEND EVENT: The letter mentions that Network Rail will hold an ‘information event’ will discuss options. If this is after the consultancy period ends on 31st December, then will it be more than lip-service, just a statutory requirement grudgingly carried out? Or has it happened / scheduled to take place DURING the consultancy period: ie: when everyone is doing Christmas stuff? Either way, it is important we turn out in large numbers. Show that Beeston can’t be easily fobbed off.
There might be safety considerations. Trains are getting faster and more frequent. But the responsibility for Network Rail is to address this in a way that benefits most, not just an accountancy department in a London office. Keep Attenborough Accessible.