Campaigners fighting against controversial plans to demolish Steventon’s railway bridge ‘live to fight another day’ after the decision on the future of the Grade II listed structure was deferred.
Vale of White Horse District Council planners last week demanded more information on alternatives to knocking down the Victorian bridge.
Planning officers had recommended Network Rail’s £10millon electrification project, which would cause a 10-month road closure and cut off a main route into the south Oxfordshire village, for approval.
Despite this and Historic England, which originally had ‘serious questions’ about the necessity of demolition, changing its mind last month, councillors agreed they need more information on the possibility of lowering the track instead.
Steventon parish councillor Robert Green said: “We’ve bought more time to obtain the evidence Network Rail gave to Historic England which caused them to change their opinion in April.
“We live to fight another day in the hope that we can turn Historic England back to objecting.”
Outgoing Vale leader Matthew Barber called for the outright refusal of Network Rail’s plans.
Afterwards, he said: “I was arguing for a refusal but it’s not a bad outcome as it gives us more time for more information.
“The more I see from Network Rail the less convinced I am of the need [to demolish the bridge].
“I don’t think more information can do any harm, although the end game has got to be a refusal when it comes back to committee in a month or so.”
Network Rail representatives said the project is the only way to electrify the line after putting ‘significant resources’ into exploring alternatives.
The company claims a higher bridge would save train times between Cardiff and London by 25 seconds, something it says is an important part of its wider £1bn electrification project.
However, campaigners, who had their own independent report into alternatives produced, and councillors, agreed 25 seconds is not a good enough reason for demolition.
Cllr Ben Mabbett said: “I do not believe it has been demonstrated that substantial public benefit would outweigh the decision [to demolish].
“The only impact would be people waiting 25 seconds at a platform, which is not of significant public benefit.
“We need a better look at other options that have yet to be looked at properly.”