Batley rail footbridge plan gets the green light despite crime concerns

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps could have the final say on rail improvements planned for Batley.

By Tony Earnshaw, Local Democracy Reporting Service
Wednesday, 4th May 2022, 3:00 pm
An artist's impression of how the new Lady Anne Footbridge could look when it is built in Batley. Image: Network Rail
An artist's impression of how the new Lady Anne Footbridge could look when it is built in Batley. Image: Network Rail

Mr Shapps may be asked to rule on diverting a footpath to accommodate plans by Network Rail to replace the popular manned Lady Anne crossing linking Howley Street with Stoney Lane with a metal footbridge, ramp, stairs and raised pathway.

The site is half a mile to the north of Batley Station.

The bridge and footpath proposals, part of electrification and signalling improvements within the mammoth TransPennine Route Upgrade (TRU), were both unanimously approved by Kirklees Council’s Heavy Woollen planning sub-committee on April 28.

An artist's impression of how the new Lady Anne Footbridge could look when it is built in Batley. Image: Network Rail

Should the council’s diversion order be opposed it would need to be confirmed by Mr Shapps at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

Work on the new bridge must begin within three years. However a condition of the development says no works shall affect the footpath – known as Public Right of Way BAT20/20 – “until a diversion/extinguishment order is made and confirmed”.

Local campaigners who spoke at last week’s meeting said people’s “very real fear” that the bridge would be a magnet for crime and anti-social behaviour had not been addressed.

And they suggested that “the financial interests of big business” were “being preferred over local residents”.

Network Rail staff said the works in Batley were “a key to unlocking significant investment by delivering the rail upgrade” and pledged that if anti-social behaviour did increase as a result of the new bridge, then crime reduction measures would be introduced.

Network Rail’s £1.56bn TransPennine Route Upgrade (TRU) between Manchester and York includes remodelling Huddersfield Station and knocking down, replacing or improving eight bridges between Huddersfield and Westtown in Dewsbury as well as widening and electrifying the line.

Referring to the diversion of the public footpath, Coun Steve Hall (Lab, Heckmondwike) said: “We complain like hell in the north that we never get any money, and at last we’ve got some.

"This is part of a £1.2bn scheme in the north of England to make lines safer, quicker, cleaner. This is the way that we need to be going.

"To get things forward we’ve got to get this diversion in.”

Speaking after the committee’s decision, an objector said an intervention by Mr Shapps represented local campaigners’ last hope.

He said: “Unless they get the public right of way amended by diversion there’s no point in building a bridge.

"The Secretary of State will publicise the diversion. If people object, then he will have to consider those objections.”

Hannah Lomas, principal programme sponsor for Network Rail, welcomed the decision to approve the “bespoke, accessible bridge”.

She added: “I know that feelings towards the plans have been mixed, which is why we’ve kept practical, collaborative conversations happening at every stage and will continue to do so going forward.”