Welcome to the 'New Somerset and Dorset Railway'

The original Somerset and Dorset Railway closed very controversially in 1966. It is time that decision, made in a very different world, was reversed. We now have many councillors, MPs, businesses and individuals living along the line supporting us. Even the Ministry of Transport supports our general aim. The New S&D was formed in 2009 with the aim of rebuilding as much of the route as possible, at the very least the main line from Bath (Britain's only World Heritage City) to Bournemouth (our premier seaside resort); as well as the branches to Wells, Glastonbury and Wimborne. We will achieve this through a mix of lobbying, trackbed purchase and restoration of sections of the route as they become economically viable. With Climate Change, road congestion, capacity constraints on the railways and now Peak Oil firmly on the agenda we are pushing against an open door. We already own Midford just south of Bath, and are restoring Spetisbury under license from DCC, but this is just the start. There are other established groups restoring stations and line at Midsomer Norton and Shillingstone, and the fabulous narrow gauge line near Templevcombe, the Gartell Railway.

There are now FIVE sites being actively restored on the S&D and this blog will follow what goes on at all of them!
Midford - Midsomer Norton - Gartell - Shillingstone - Spetisbury

Our Aim:

Our aim is to use a mix of lobbying, strategic track-bed purchase, fundraising and encouragement and support of groups already preserving sections of the route, as well as working with local and national government, local people, countryside groups and railway enthusiasts (of all types!) To restore sections of the route as they become viable.
Whilst the New S&D will primarily be a modern passenger and freight railway offering state of the art trains and services, we will also restore the infrastructure to the highest standards and encourage steam working and steam specials over all sections of the route, as well as work very closely with existing heritage lines established on the route.

This blog contains my personal views. Anything said here does not necessarily represent the aims or views of any of the groups currently restoring, preserving or operating trains over the Somerset and Dorset Railway!

Saturday, April 07, 2012

cometh the hour, cometh the man!

(Ashcott, late 1960s)

I've just had a very interesting phone call from a specialist in heritage planning, environmental law, environmental impact assessments and our favourite, compulsory purchase orders. He's done this for nearly 20 years and is very well known in heritage circles.

And he's offered these services free of charge, to assist the rebuilding of the whole S&D.

I'd hoped that this would happen once were we taken completely seriously, and I knew that would take some years, but clearly the acquisition of Midford, the imminent clearing of Spetisbury, plus of course the establishment of heritage and narrow gauge sites at three other points on the route, has made any such doubts history. I really don't think anything - short of a direct hit from an asteroid - can stop the rebuilding of the S&D now!


Knoxy said...

good one Steve.

we will just get on with it, while others just watch from their keyboards....

Sunshiner said...

Exactly. I can understand the twisted appeal of a lazy life as a troll just running down everything that you're jealous of, but all it does is increase our resolve.

This person's first CPO was for a castle (!) so a few crappy 80s houses on OUR trackbed will be a very minor thing indeed!

Neil S. said...

This is excellent news.

Skillful navigation through the minefield that is local authority politics and red tape is all important.

Judicial Review and court action brings delay and costs, easily avoidable in most cases.

CPOs are a last result in my experience. I would say most people will willingly yield up for compensation an 80s house, a period of architecture best forgotten, long before a CPO, if it's not already falling apart.

Anonymous said...

Great news this, I am sorry for those who have bought houses on trackbeds however i can remember thousands of houses being compulsorily bought back in the 70,s and pulled down for appalling road projects which destroyed communities and bought nothing but noise dirt and misery for those nearby. This happened to the area where I came from and the area has now been slummified. Nobody cared then about those wrecked communities therefore I feel houses that have been built on trackbeds should be removed however I feel the S&D will be far more sensitive than the inhumane Ministry of Transport and Highways. The dead hand of state seems to enjoy wrecking lives and environments on the backs of ordinary people. Another example of wilful housebuilding is at the old Tavistock North railway station (Southern Railway) where several houses were built blocking the trackbed plus offices for the council. This is also a line that must reopen and soon as a through route. The old Western Region management were a very sly lot the way they closed this route using excuses such as the viaduct at Meldon. Tavistock when closed back in May 1968 was still very busy with commuters to Plymouth and many local schoolchildren also used the trains as just up the road you have the great big Kelly College. Other children would have been travelling into Plymouth for schools such as Devonport High school. Both schools both mentioned still exist today and are popular with parents. I m sure this situation would have existed on the S& D at places such as Shepton M, Radstock etc with children travelling into Bath for the better quality schools/colleges and still do.

Sunshiner said...

My own view is that CPOs should only be used if all other options are either unavailable or the owner is so intransigent that it will be the only way forward.

I suspect that as a railway we have grandfather rights in any case which should make it even easier but my understanding is that a public railway automatically gains compulsory purchase rights.

Somebody mentioned that a viaduct near Wellow has been converted to three houses and that this could never be the subject of a CPO - although they gave no reasons why. In reality I would think that this would be almost automatically granted - what were they thinking buying a house built IN a railway property on a line that everybody accepts must be rebuilt soon? People can act stupid but sometimes it is so blatant that they'll get no sympathy at all, and this ridiculous 'conversion' is possibly one of the clearest cases of abuse I've ever seen. We need to make it clear - ALL of the S&D will be restored so there's no point anyone building or buying on the route.

Neil S. said...

For information, the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 is the main statute in the area and contents the machinery for CPOs.

The S and D is in a good position in that an easement-a right of way-is in the main the only requirement to relay a railway line:the freehold can remain with the owner. Stations and car parks pose a fuller problem: freehold purchase will be necesary. Compensation is based on the price between a willing purchaser and a willing seller.

I am concerned about the wholesale destruction of goods facilties along the S and D since closure in 1966. Quick solutions will be necessary in the face of Peak Oil etc. Oakley's excellent book "Somerset Railway Stations" shows the damage and destruction in the name of progress but also provides thought for rebuilding and relaying.

I'd also urge all interested to learn and become involved in the planning process. Development plans are revised every few years.
Developers have used this avenue with impunity for years in creating an artificial "need" for houses in many cases. Much more genuinely, the Cotswold Canals and Wilts and Berks Canal have used the system to safeguard each Canal's route.

The worthy cause of the S and D should do the same.

Anonymous said...

I remember taking photos of Itchen Abbas station [on the Mid Hants] just before it was torn down, i notice the first house built was right across the track formation !!!!!

Sunshiner said...

That will inevitably have to come down! The Winchester-Alton line will become very busy after oil, probably be double tracked and electrified, destroying its charm, but I suspect we're going to have to get used to that!

I also took pictures on the last day there, also a few years afterwards after track lifting. I remember the station building was made into a nice house - why on earth did they demolish it?

Mark said...

Continuing with the Itchen Abbas them; I visited, camera-free, that site in the very early eighties, and it was covered with houses and unrecognisable as an ex-railway location. The main difficulty, probably oil-political, with regenerating the whole line at the time was the presence of the M3 over the trackbed - deliberately not raised above the 'useless' line by a bridge! Post oil, this barrier would lose much of its power to obstruct?

One notable rising expense for the future would relate to the cost of materials. Concrete, bricks, plastics and steel require large energy (oil) inputs in their production. A proportion of these could be re-substituted with wood. Time to start planting where we can, from now?

Sunshiner said...

Wood will be a huge and valuable product in the future being genuinely sustainable, but management of it will be really important as we've managed to denude the UK of wood in the past! But we've learned a lot since then with proper woodland management and coppicing.

I can't see any way Winchester-Alton can stay closed for a lot longer, but it really will have to be doubled and electrified - this would create loads of new paths for passenger and freight trains from Southampton to London, Oxford etc. Hopefully a little of this will also be diverted via a rebuilt Didcot, Newbury and Southampton line. There's going to be a lot of developments in the area as the oil vanishes.

(I'm sure the fools that bought houses at Itchen Abbas will find somewhere else to live!)

Knoxy said...

Considering our whole way of life has adapted to cheap oil, there are going to be quite a few shocks to the way we live as the cheap energy era ends?

When the pressure really does mount to take freight back on the rail; that is when we will see the likes of a rebuilt Didcot, Newbury and Southampton line. There is certainly too much road freight on that A34 and where will it go when the oil runs out?

sebastian said...

I have also been to Itchen Abbas before its demise in its design was more like Alresford than Roply. as previously it was pulled down in the early eighty's. this fear that the M3 would cut through the formation at Kingsworthy, thus severing the link to Winchester, by the M.H.R. did indeed happen but what they should have done was keep the track bed up to the proposed M3. make Itchen Abbas the terminus. and as they do now at Alresford use the remaining formation from the station to the M3 as a long siding. the fear at the time was the motorway would be to much the same level as the rail way and that only a level crossing would be the only option , so obviously that would not have been practical. once built however it was and still clear that a bridge over the M3 would be possible. So I suspect that line is regretting selling Itchen Abbas Station. to developers as they would have had an almost unique end to end network connection.

This is by no means a slur on that line it is one of my favourites but just how we must keep on as we are. by sticking with the objective reopen all S&D routes, and building new links where needed.

This is looking more promising now given the last weeks announcements.