Peter Lay (PL), Chairman, Working Group
Simon Fisher (SF), Devizes Town Council Acting Clerk
Richard Gamble (RG), WC for The Lavingtons
Robert Gordon (RG)
Ceri Gosling (CG)
Simon Jacobs (SJ), WC for Devizes
Paul Johnson (PJ), TransWits
Tom Pagett (TP), Legal advisor from Awdry Bailey Douglas Chippenham office
Edward East (EE), CPRE
Graham Day (GD), Urchfont PC
Peter Hansen (PH), Etchilhampton PC
William Howkins (WH), Stert PC
The meeting opened at 10.30am.
PL opened by welcoming reps from Stert, Urchfont and Etchilhampton. He acknowledged that there was no pre-meeting agenda, and no agenda was tabled at the meeting, so matters proceeded at the Chair’s discretion
PL informed that Ceri had contacted 4 senior railway managers about the GRIP (Guide to Railway Investment Process). As a result, Peter L would seek the advice of consultants Ian Harmon, a private consultant with experience working with NetworkRail, on a goodwill basis. Simon Jacobs suggested the group should ask Catharine Symington, an independent consultant with special expertise in rail projects and familiar with the GRIP process and sources of finance. He stated that Peter Webb, a highways expert, had produced initial costings about the access road and junction with A342. He also mentioned improving access to Stert as part of the access road works. These costs were not presented to the meeting. PL then requested permission to start detailed consultant work on new road design.
PJ advised against a road study at this stage until alternative options were developed under subsequent phases of the GRIP process. First, the GWR/Network Rail process should be advanced to determine the viability of the new station before studying the access road. This required a demand analysis following the procedures set out by Network Rail. It has data, which need to be accessed to make this study.
PL has appointed Richard Hosta (or Hosker?) and PKA Architects to assist with the planning application with WC. They would advise on what type of housing should be built and the plans to extend Clock Inn Park. It was emphasised that WC would not approve the housing to go ahead without the station. SJ suggested that Catherine Symington could advise on sources of financing other than from a housing development.. So far £6,980 had been committed in fees out of the £9,000 available. SF queried whether these consultants were needed at this time. The need for the station should be the focus of attention at this stage.
PL said the aim was to complete the planning process and designs by 2022 in time for the new GWR rail franchise to be let in 2022/2024 so that the new station could be included in the new franchise. He said Network Rail supported privately funded schemes and housing development as part of station planning as this would support use of the station. RG said that the housing development not being in the WC Core Strategy was not a problem as the strategy was already out of date and an update would soon be needed. The station would not be built by GWR. PL said he wanted to proceed with the pre-planning application with WC in parallel with the GRIP process. The consensus was that this would be premature as the proposed plan had not yet been properly developed through the GRIP process. PL said the result of the GWR consultation was expected to be received by June.
PJ said the proposed timeframe for the planning process (ie. by 2022) was not realistic. Wilton Station had taken 5 – 6 years to plan and design. It had taken 2 years to promote the station with Network Rail. Construction of the station will take two years. The original scheme was quite different from that originally planned due to changes during the planning process. Network Rail can carry out the demand survey, but they are very expensive. We could appoint a Network Rail approved consultant (such as Atkins) who knows what procedures are to be followed and try to negotiate our own price to control costs. The new franchise needs to include the requirement that a satisfactory service will be provided to the new station. The new services would have to fit in with the regional timetable planning and strategic aspirations.
PJ emphasised that the GRIP planning process needed to be followed before going to WC for planning approval. There might be issues with the airfield being so close to the station (the carpark was at the end of the landing strip). SJ said expert help was needed to follow the GRIP process and he would ask Catherine Symington to come to the next meeting to brief the group on this. He would contact her to find out when she was available and set a date for the next meeting.
PJ advised all in the group to download the Network Rail guide to planning stations (found on the TransWilts website. (the link to this document was circulated to the group by SF subsequent to the meeting.) TP said he thought it would be helpful if a Ghant chart be prepared showing all the stages and deadlines for this planning process.
WH asked whether alternative layouts were being considered and was told that alternatives would be compared under the GRIP2 stage, selection of options. He also informed the meeting that Stert PC was totally opposed to the housing development immediately north of the Clock Inn Park within its parish boundary, in open countryside and within the AONB.
GD said that routing the access road from Lydeway would solve the road junction problem and would provide a shorter access to the station location with a car park on the south side of the railway. He also requested that the three parishes be fully and officially involved in the planning process, take part in all meetings and be given access to all the documents and minutes of meetings. This was agreed. He also requested that a secretary be appointed to take minutes of the meetings. SF said no minutes had been prepared to date but that members of the group relied on their own notes. GD thanked the group on behalf of the three parishes for being invited to the meeting.
PJ advised that meeting that he could not continue to participate as an active member because of his workload relating to Wilton and Melksham stations. He welcomed the proposed involvement of Catharine Symington.
SJ proposed that current activities should be paused, while a fundamental review of the approach to the project was undertaken, but thanked PL for driving the project forward to the current state. PL agreed that he would immediately notify all consultants to stop work immediately, and estimated that approx.. £3500 of the £7000 committed had been spent to date.
The meeting closed at 12.05pm
Note: GRIP = “Guide to Rail Investment Process”, Network Rail’s planning and implementation procedure. GRIP1: Project identification, GRIP2: Pre-Feasibility, GRIP3: Option selection, GRIP4: Single option development, GRIP5 to GRIP8: Design, Construction, Commissioning etc.