Residents of a village on the London-Brighton main railway line have expressed ‘disbelief’ that Network Rail is not objecting to plans to build 137 new homes near an unmanned crossing.
Residents are worried that the new estate - planned to be built by Rydon Homes on land near Friars Oak, Hassocks - will lead to more children using the unguarded rail crossing as a shortcut.
The site is near Woodside Crossing, which takes a public footpath over the railway.
At the moment, say residents, access to the crossing is only possible by walking hundreds of metres through fields, and the foot crossing is little used.
But in a statement this week Friars Oak Fields Residents Association said: “There is little reason for people to use the isolated crossing at present - but if a big housing estate is built next to it, on the other side of the railway from the village’s shops, schools and bulk of other housing, then clearly more people will use it.
“The footpath goes over a track that has 332 trains passing daily at up to 90mph, and is just a few feet from the electrified third rail.
“There is only a stile and a warning notice to stop local kids trespassing on the railway at the moment, so God forbid what will happen when more than 100 families are living next to it.”
They add: “Unbelievably, however, Network Rail has refused to object to the housing estate. It has apparently accepted the findings of Rydon’s consultants, who claim that no school children - in fact nobody at all - will use the crossing between 8am and 9am.”
Hassocks Parish Council has also recommended that the planning application be rejected. In a statement, it said: “The proposal would create an increase in the number of people, mainly children, using the uncontrolled crossing over the London to Brighton Railway. This would create a high risk of injury or death to those using the crossing and permission should be refused for this reason.”
But Network Rail has already given its reasons for not opposing the housing proposals. A spokesman said: “Network Rail takes the safety of its level crossings very seriusly and we worked with the developer to reassess the footpath crossing near Hassocks using standard transport-planning tools.
“While the level of risk was changed slightly, it was not increased enough to warrant any changes to the level crossing, or objections.
“Therefore we have not objected to the development. Network Rail can object where it has a good case and evidence to back it up, but as a publicly-funded organisation, we cannot put tax and fare payers’ money at risk by objecting when that is not the case.”