Network Rail bids to gain control of old Uckfield station site

Uckfield Town Council is supporting a bid by Network Rail to take ownership of the town’s old station site and former goods yard.

The land has been derelict and overgrown for many years, following the demolition of the old station in 2001.

The station was closed in 1991 with services starting and terminating from the new station on the other side of the road. In recent years there has been a campaign to get the land (pictured) re-opened as a temporary car park for commuters. /images/2011_june/old_station_yard.jpg

The town council has written to the Department for Transport supporting Network Rail’s application to take over the land from the BRB (Residuary), which manages the rump of the former British Rail.

Brighton Main Line2

Uckfield-based BML2, which is promoting a second main line from Brighton to London and on towards Essex, said the old Uckfield station site was among five locations Network Rail had asked to be transferred to their custody for “operational needs and to safeguard future rail capacity needs”.

In a statement on its website, BML2 states: “This is tremendously welcome news, not least because it finally removes the threat of non-rail redevelopment which has been hanging over this land for almost 30 years.

“This began back in 1985 when the station was still open and a planning application for a massive 20,000 sq ft superstore was lodged, whereupon East Sussex County Council prepared to rescind the trackbed protection policy.

“However, the Wealden Line Campaign urged councillors to continue safeguarding the route and, by a narrow majority, the application was refused. Once the station was moved across the road and the site became derelict, subsequent attempts to build houses and flats have all been fought, whilst the most recent threat has come from ESCC’s own road scheme.

“In May, ESCC held a consultation on local traffic solutions for Uckfield, one of which controversially involved building a new road right across the station site, but the public’s overwhelming message was reopening the railway must take priority. In June, we had an informal meeting with a senior ESCC director to find common ground where alternative proposals were suggested, aimed at providing a proper transport hub around the reopened railway.

“This initiative resulted in a wider meeting in mid-July between various councils at which ESCC conceded that severing the trackbed would be tantamount to “political suicide”.

“Network Rail then revealed its intention regarding the station site. Suddenly the concept of creating a transport hub for integrating trains, buses, taxis, etc, as well as accommodating ESCC’s aspirations for improving local traffic, was universally welcomed and deemed the way forward.

“Wealden District Council has since written to Transport Minister and Lewes MP Norman Baker seeking his support and influence, pointing out the ‘unique opportunity’ to facilitate Uckfield’s growth, provide a local traffic solution, as well as ‘the potential to ease what is becoming a significant issue for all users of the London – Brighton line and other Southern rail services due to overcrowding’.

“The letter also mentions the district and county council’s support for reinstating the railway and not permitting ‘any development which would thwart that objective’. Whilst accepting there appears to be no business case at the moment, it recognizes ‘the evidence is clearly mounting’ to find alternative solutions to congestion on the rail network.”

See also:

A look at Uckfield’s railway history


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