Posted 9th January 2015 | 5 Comments

Dawlish plan could be 'act of nuisance'

NETWORK RAIL says it may take legal action against a firm which wants to build new houses on a cliff near Dawlish.

There are concerns that the Great Western Main Line could be damaged if the cliff is destablised by the construction of 31 retirement homes at Old Teignmouth Road.

The developer, Pegasus Life, has described its scheme as an 'excellent and appropriate concept for this wonderful location', and council officers are recommending that planning permission should be given.

But Network Rail has warned Teignbridge council that the project could have serious implications for the vulnerable railway which runs along the foot of the cliff, parts of which were destroyed by winter storms last year.

The bad weather in February caused so much damage along the sea wall at Dawlish that the line could not be reopened until early April. Business groups in the south west said the lack of a rail link to Plymouth and Cornwall for several weeks damaged the regional economy. They are calling for up to £7 billion to be invested in the region's railways, including more resilient infrastructure.

After the storms last winter, engineers not only repaired 80m of devastated sea wall at Dawlish itself but also carried out a related project to stablise a section of cliff at Teignmouth.

Network Rail told Teignbridge council: "We have serious concerns that the proposal if permitted could destabilise the cliff. The area concerned has a high profile of cliff failures and associated rock stabilisation works having to be carried out.

"You should recall we recently had to shut the main line railway as a result of damage to the sea wall caused by storms. Before we were able to reopen the railway we also had carefully controlled sea cliff collapses and therefore we know there are potential issues in this locality.

"Network Rail will consider any such failure and damage as an act of nuisance and shall take all necessary action to seek redress for the damage caused and any financial penalties for closure of the railway."

Pegasus Life chief executive Howard Phillips defended the plan. He said: "We are committed to creating stunning homes that sit in harmony with their surroundings. There was extensive consultation with the local community and a high level of support was received.

"We will build the new homes in sensitive appreciation of the special landscape, including a 10m exclusion zone from development by the cliffs and would only proceed when Network Rail have the assurances they need."

The planning committee of Teignbridge council is to consider the application on 13 January.

Reader Comments:

Views expressed in submitted comments are that of the author, and not necessarily shared by Railnews.

  • Tim, Devon

    Not really the Great Western Main Line is it?
    That runs from Paddington to Bristol.

    (It does, strictly, and that is the core GWML. But in a wider sense the phrase is used to denote the lines from Paddington to Swansea/Penzance.--Editor.)

  • James Palma, London

    The so called 'democratic' process for planning applications and property development is not democratic, nor is it intended to be. Planning governance is there to ensure that towns and cities and their surrounding areas are developed in a sustainable manner. One problem is, the developer can bribe the local authority under section 106 of the Town and Country planning act.

    To allow development at the location suggested is not sustainable and poses a serious health and safety risk to the railway and those living in or near the properties to be located at the top of the cliff.

    Network Rail has a statutory responsibility to run a safe railway and ensure the safety of its assets to do this. However, town planning law does not accommodate this. Therefore NR is within its obligations and rights to submit a nuisance claim to ensure its safety. The developer is also subject to engineering standards and regulations which may stop the development anyway.

  • John C. Edwards, Woodford Halse

    Network Rail must be aware that the Dawlish line is unsustainable in the long-term and will have to close. Why does it have to interfere with a democratic planning process to block local residential development? More legal costs to be born by the taxpayer on top of what has been paid out for the stop-gap sea wall reinstatement works.

  • Tony Pearce, Reading

    Mad and Bad. It could put 100s of people's lives at risk on a train, let alone the people in the Property. Building anywhere near Railways is really not on. Maintenance needs to be done, ditches need to be got to and cleared, and any Civil Enginnering needs access from both sides of the Track for at least 2 lorry widths.

  • John Gaughan, Hanover, PA USA

    Is nothing sacred. Here we go again....GREED.