Members of a South Gloucestershire Council committee have voted to approve a controversial planning application from Hitachi Rail to build a train maintenance depot on land known as the ‘Filton Triangle’ in Stoke Gifford.
The proposed depot, required as part of the project to electrify the main line between London and Cardiff, had been opposed by hundreds of Stoke Gifford residents who feared their homes would be blighted by noise, fumes, light pollution, increased flooding risk and other environmental issues if the project were given the go-ahead.
A report written by the Council’s planning officials and published prior to the meeting had recommended that the application be approved, subject to 18 listed conditions – addressing such things as noise levels, hours of work during the construction phase and environmental issues.
Before Councillors reached their decision, supporters and objectors were given the chance to address the meeting. Speaking in favour of the proposal were Ian Crawford (Transport for Greater Bristol), transport campaigner Dave Redgewell, Stoke Gifford resident James Potts, David Wood (RMT union) and Richard Cole of Network Rail. Lesley Cox of the Stokes Campaign Against Rail Electrification Depot (SCARED) spoke against the proposal, along with two other local residents.
After a debate that lasted more than two hours, Councillors eventually decided to approve the application, subject to the addition of some extra conditions and “informative” comments.
Eleven of the twelve Committee members present voted in favour of the application; Stoke Gifford Councillor Keith Cranney abstained.
Preparatory work on the new depot is expected to start this summer with the main construction taking place in 2013 and 2014. Testing of the new bi-mode (electric/diesel) trains is scheduled to commence by the middle of 2015, with the system becoming operational in 2016.
Once the new trains are in service, it is claimed that journey times between Bristol and London will be reduced by 15 minutes and travellers will benefit from increased frequencies of operation.
Speaking at yesterday’s meeting, Andy Barr, Senior Vice president of Hitachi Rail Europe, promised his company would set up a community liaison group to meet with residents and discuss their concerns. However, the Council’s chief planning officer advised Committee members that the setting up of such a group could not be enforced through a condition on the planning permission.
An ‘update sheet‘ circulated at the meeting specified some changes to the conditions listed in the original report. The most significant change appears to be in condition 7, which in its revised form now specifies a separate limit for noise produced by on-site train movements.
It is understood that further changes to the conditions attached to the planning permission were agreed at yesterday’s meeting. South Gloucestershire Council says it is unable to provide us with a statement defining exactly what was agreed but that this will be revealed when the formal ‘decision notice’ is published next week.
A report in today’s Bristol Evening Post says:
“Among the extra conditions imposed were measures to be taken to prevent squeaky wheels on the tracks and a ban on other types of trains using the depot without further planning permission.”
Photo: Scene at the meeting of South Gloucestershire Council’s Development Control (West) Committee where the planning application was discussed. Supporters and opponents who wished to address the meeting are seen seated in the front row, with the public gallery behind.