Civic chiefs set to lobby Transport Secretary over delays to 'vital' safety scheme

CIVIC chiefs are planning to lobby Transport Secretary Chris Grayling after criticising South West Trains over delays to a vital safety scheme.

Council bosses claim one of the south’s leading housebuilders is being “held to ransom” in a row over a luxury housing development being built beside the Lymington River.

The £80 million Lymington Shores complex aims to provide 168 homes and a restaurant, plus shops, a rowing club and an art gallery.

A footbridge is due to be built over a railway line that separates the waterfront villas from the town centre.

Redrow Homes says the bridge will create a safe and direct route between the homes – some of which cost £1.7 million – and the main shopping area.

But the proposal includes a walkway from Lymington Town station to nearby Waterloo Road.

Redrow has run into objections from South West Trains, which is worried about the potential loss of car parking spaces at the station.

South West Trains was accused of “intransience” at a meeting of the district council’s planning committee, which agreed to extend a deadline imposed on Redrow when planning permission for the Lymington Shores scheme was granted in 2012.

It means the developer will not have to build the footbridge until the 125th home has been occupied, which is unlikely to happen until next year.

Redrow had previously been told it must construct the bridge by the time the 75th property had been occupied.

John Nicholas, representing the company, described the bridge as a “pivotal” part of the development, adding: “We’re doing everything in our power to provide it.”

Chris Elliott, the council’s executive head of economy, housing and planning, told the committee: “Negotiating with train operators is a very difficult thing to do.”

South West Trains also came under fire from Cllr Pat Wyeth, a former chairman of the committee, who accused the company of holding the developers to ransom.

Other members cited the safety benefits of the bridge and said no more homes should be built until it had been constructed.

But Redrow’s application was backed by Cllr Fran Carpenter, who said: “We have to hope that negotiations will carry on and everything will fall into place at a later date.”

After further debate the proposal was granted by 12 votes to four.

However, members agreed that the council should lobby the New Forest’s two MPs and transport secretary Chris Grayling in a bid to end the deadlock.

A South West Trains spokesman said Redrow’s proposal would have a “disproportionate impact” on people who used the station car park.

He added: “Losing any of the existing 18 spaces was not an option for our passengers.

“Therefore we asked the developer to come back with an alternative proposal to reduce the impact for local residents and rail passengers.

“We hope they will come back with a viable, alternative proposal so we can continue to work together on this.”