11th hour campaign to stop rail freight plan in its tracks

Deeping St Nicholas'Photo;  SG151012-TW www.spaldingtoday.co.uk/buyaphoto
Deeping St Nicholas'Photo; SG151012-TW www.spaldingtoday.co.uk/buyaphoto

Villagers have mounted an 11th hour campaign against a rail hub they fear is a “smokescreen” for a large industrial estate on their doorsteps.

The Rail Freight Interchange is earmarked in the South East Lincolnshire Local Plan for 15 hectares close to the rail line through Deeping St Nicholas.

The plan – which sets out the vision for the South Holland and Boston area through to 2031 – also includes an associated 45 hectares for industrial use.

Around a dozen residents attended a meeting of Deeping St Nicholas Parish Council on Monday, where South Holland District Council senior planning officer Phil Norman outlined the history and current situation regarding the RFI.

He explained that the rail hub had first come to light in 2009, in response to interest from retailers.

Two possible sites were identified, but the Deeping Fen site was eventually chosen and the idea was moving forward with a developer and operator expressing an interest.

The hub has now been included in the Local Plan, which is currently being consulted on across the area.

The general consultation on the wide-reaching document ends tomorrow – although the parish council has been granted an extension until July 4 to submit its comments.

At the meeting parish council chairman Nicholas Watts said 800 out of the village’s 1,000 residents had previously signed a petition against the rail hub, adding: “From that it’s fairly obvious that we don’t want it, but it would seem the council is not really listening to what we want.

“It thinks the need for a rail hub is greater than what the people of Deeping St Nicholas have to say.”

And Coun George Fitzgerald questioned if submitting objections to the Local Plan was worth it, saying: “I think it’s all decided already.”

Residents were also given the chance to have a say at the meeting, with one commenting she had “almost had a heart attack” when she heard about the plan, and another saying it was “just a smokescreen for an industrial estate.”

Coun Watts urged as many residents as possible to write letters of objection to the plans before the public consultation deadline.

Councillors also agreed to read and comment on a list of objections put together by the clerk so its own response could be submitted in time for the July 4 deadline.

Their objections include:

l Air, light and noise pollution on a 24-hour basis close to residential properties;

l Downgrading of the A16 to the A1175, which means it would not be able to accommodate the high volume of traffic generated;

l The hub would change the rural area/village into an urban area.

A petition, led by parish councillor Liz Williams, has already been started and it is hoped as manay villagers as possible will sign it or write their own letters.