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Sign the petition: Protect our railway heritage from Highways England’s wrecking ball

Deadline 05 September 2021

“The UK’s developing network of foot and cycle routes has brought new life to many old railways over the past 50 years. As we build a better normal after the coronavirus pandemic, increasing provision for active travel will bring health, wellbeing, environmental, economic and connectivity benefits, and the Government has recognised this by committing £2 billion over five years to deliver new infrastructure.

But Highways England, acting on the Department for Transport’s behalf, has plans to spend much of its quadrupled budget for managing the Historical Railways Estate of 3,200 disused railways structures by demolishing or infilling hundreds of them, compromising future greenway schemes by blocking or severing the routes they span or carry. The same plans could also jeopardise railway reopenings and extensions to heritage lines.

No assessment is being made as to the value of each at-risk structure for future rail or active travel provision; most of them are in good condition and present low levels of risk. And attempts are being made to progress most of the schemes under inapplicable emergency powers to avoid the challenges that often accompany normal planning processes. So, not only are they blindly taking a wrecking ball to potentially useful structures and community aspirations, they’re acting disreputably to bypass local development plans and overcome objectors.

By adding your voice, the loudest possible message can be sent to Highways England and the Department for Transport: these assets must not be put beyond use if they could play a positive future transport role and all plans to do so must be subject to appropriate public scrutiny.

Please help to safeguard our nation’s threatened disused railway heritage.”