SPECIAL MEETING OF STERT PARISH COUNCIL
held in St. James Church on 19th February 2018
Present: Stert PC:
Clive Boyes (CB) Chairman
Alick Edwards (AE) Dty Chairman
Sam Deacon (SD) Councillor
Lucy Barker (LB) Councillor/Treasurer
William Howkins (WH) Councillor/Clerk
Councillor Chris Lawrence sent his apologies.
Devizes Development Partnership:
Peter Lay (PL), Working Group Chairman
Simon Fisher (SF), deputy clerk Devizes Town Council
Also present were 42 Stert residents and other members of the public.
1. Devizes Parkway Station
At the request of Mr Fisher, he and Mr Peter Lay came to brief Stert PC on the proposal for a new railway station to be located on the main line to the east of Clock Inn Park. Stert residents had been invited to attend the meeting.
CB opened the meeting by introducing SF and PL.
In 2022, a new franchise for the GW network is to be put out for bidding. This proposal, by Devizes Development Partnership (DDP), is being put together as part of the forward planning for improved services to mid Wiltshire to be included in the new Great Western Rail franchise. This meeting is part of a public consultation to determine the support for a new station at Devizes. Devizes is the largest town in Wiltshire without a train station. The town council has conducted an ‘assessment of need’ and concluded the need exists, specially since nationally. train travel is growing rapidly.
The present franchise provides inadequate service for the mid-Wilts region. It does not realise the potential of Westbury as a hub with connections to the north, south and west. Making Westbury a rail hub should be a key part of the future services to the SW region, requiring the provision of a fourth platform.
Current plans for the main line comprise electrification of the Berks-Hants main line only from Reading to Newbury beyond which the main line to the west will be served by diesel trains. The fast long distance service with limited stops will be provided by bi-modal trains.
DDP has submitted (subsequent to meeting) a Response to Public Consultation on the GW Franchise justifying the building of a new station for Devizes. The reopening of the branch line to Devizes was no longer feasible due to property encroachment on the old line.
PL showed a plan of the proposed station, access road and parking for 400 cars (see below). The station is proposed to be located ¾ mile east of the railway bridge at Clock Inn and would consist of two full length platforms connected by a footbridge. The access road is to branch off from the A342 just east of the Etchilhampton turning and traverse the field south of Wabi Farm. From the eastern end of Clock Inn Park, it is to run along the northern side of the existing railway line to the far end of the existing airstrip.
Stert residents were surprised and concerned to hear that, between the access road and Clock Inn Park, a 6.5 hectare area is to be designated as a site for residential development. This development will be used to generate funds to help pay for the station development.
PL said that a certain amount of land would need to be acquired for the access road, housing development and station facilities. He said he had already spoken to the 4 land owners affected and had had positive conversations about acquiring this land. He plans to establish an option to buy the relevant land at a pre-agreed pricing formula.
When asked about the funding for the scheme, PL said that 50 percent of the costs would be derived from profit from the housing development. The remainder would be met from public sources. When asked about the costs, he said that he had no estimates at present, but hopes to have them by the end of March. Members of the public stressed the need for a proper business case for the station.
Replying to a question about the implementation programme, he explained the first stage, GRIP1 – project scope, had been submitted on 20th February. The next steps, GRIP2, GRIP3, (project feasibility and assessment of project options) would follow. He said the whole project would have to be completed by March 2022. An impact study would be needed for the housing project addressing infrastructure needs, such as schools, health centres etc. Members of the public were assured that a full time-line, showing each step of the project, would be published.
When asked about the number of houses to be built as part of the project, PL said it depended on the type of houses, (high end or low cost), but this had not yet been decided. He said the houses would need to be built before the railway station so that the funds derived would be available for the construction of the station and roadworks. Concern was expressed that the housing might go ahead and then the station construction be cancelled after the houses had been built. PL assured the meeting this would not happen. Members of the village stressed they would want to see written guarantees that no houses would be built without full written approval and commitment to building the station.
Concern was raised about the junction between the proposed new station access road and A342 as it already carries a lot of traffic and the present Etchilhampton junction was on a blind bend and traffic passed at high speed. PL said that this would be studied as part of the scheme and could result in a combined junction to Etchilhampton, Stert and the new access road. SF pointed out that a highway consultant had recently reported that by national standards, this section of the A342 is ‘lightly used’. PL said he also hoped to incorporate into the project a safe cycle route between Devizes town and the station.
PL hopes soon to discuss the project with the Wiltshire Council. So far, the 3 county councillors involved in the project are: Richard Gamble, Simon Jacobs and Peter Evans.
As there were no further questions, CB closed by thanking PL and SF for a very interesting briefing.
Further information and drawings can be seen at http://www.devizes.org.uk, and follow the link to Devizes Parkway station.
2. Next meeting
The PC meeting scheduled to be held after the above briefing was postponed until 5 pm on 22nd February.
Plan of proposed new Parkway Station prepared by DDP.