4,000 sign petition against controversial Tilesheds 'flyover' proposals as backlash mounts over rail crossing plans
Campaigners are demanding the brakes be slammed on proposals for a ‘road-over-rail’ bridge amid fears it would “decimate” the area’s natural beauty – with almost 4,000 people so far signing a petition against the move.
Council chiefs say the flyover is being considered as an alternative to installing full barriers at Tileshed Lane and Boldon Lane.
They say current half barriers are considered a “serious risk”, and full barriers would lead to congestion and road delays due to increased downtime at the crossings.
But campaigners have warned the project would have major impacts on wildlife and change the character of the area forever.
They argue the level crossing is “working fine as it is” and fear the flyover aims to permit the development of homes in the area.
“The green spaces under threat are vital to our post Covid green recovery,” said Gillian Johnston from STEP.
“The last few months has highlighted the value of green space and openness in supporting healthy communities.
"The threatened sites are well-used public spaces which provided a lifeline for many locals during the recent lock-down.”
The petition adds that the structure would “decimate hundreds of metres of established hedges along with huge amounts of healthy tree loss,” with many rare species of birds, amphibians and mammals “negatively affected.”
A statement on the petition website reads: “Fields used by horses will have an all imposing flyover alongside and encroaching into the fields which are currently popular.
“Works will also lead to undue stress on resident horses through noise and pollution.
“The character of this wildlife haven will be destroyed forever.”
Campaigners say the area is vital as a ‘carbon-capturing resource” and should be preserved in the context of the council’s recently-declared ‘climate emergency.’
The group has also called for funding to be withdrawn from the project and have criticised the lack of public consultation and engagement on the proposals.
The bridge plans are currently in the ‘feasibility and design’ stage with funding identified from the Transforming Cities Fund, subject to a full business case.
At a recent meeting of the council’s Place Select Committee, South Tyneside Council’s cabinet member for housing and transport, councillor Mark Walsh, stressed no decision had been made on the road over rail bridge.
If the bridge option is progressed, he added, a formal planning application would follow and would be expected to be discussed by the council’s Planning Committee in late summer / early autumn 2021.
A council spokesperson said: “No decision has been made to build a proposed new road bridge.
“The council has been notified of safety concerns at both the Tilesheds and Boldon level crossings and Network Rail’s plans to install full barrier systems at both locations as a consequence of this.
“The full barrier system could have a significant detrimental impact on the local road network in the Boldon, Whiteleas and Biddick Hall areas, with the potential for increased traffic congestion.
“As the Highways Authority, we have a duty to plan and investigate further.
“Although provisional funding sources have been identified, we would like to assure residents that the potential for a bridge is still in the early stages, with the council currently taking feedback to the proposals at this time.
“As such, there is a substantial amount of work still to be done, including a full detailed design and environmental assessment of the bridge option.
“Should the council’s cabinet decide to progress with the proposed bridge it would also be subject to the planning process.”
To find out more about the proposed road over rail bridge and to provide feedback, visit: www.southtyneside.gov.uk/btlc
The petition from STEP can also be found here: www.change.org/p/south-tyneside-council-no-to-the-proposed-tilesheds-flyover-in-south-tyneside