LYMINGTON councillors have warned developer Redrow Homes its reputation will be damaged if it ploughs ahead with a bid to break a promise to build a £1m railway footbridge.
The housebuilder has applied to New Forest District Council to remove a condition to construct a pedestrian link between its 168-home development on the former Webb’s chicken factory site and the train station car park.
Lymington councillor Barry Dunning said: “If the bridge is not built then Redrow’s reputation as a responsible developer will be tarnished.
“I am sure our local planning committees will take this into consideration should any other projects be proposed by this company.
“By not building the bridge they are appearing to be not fulfilling their obligations to Lymington. The residents of Lymington Shores deserve to be treated in a fair manner and part of Redrow’s selling package was the promise of a bridge to the town being built in a timely manner.”
The crossing was agreed as a condition of gaining permission for the major development in 2012. Plans for it have been approved by NFDC but there has been no progress.
Lymington mayor Cllr Anne Corbridge said the town council had been “continually disappointed” with Redrow’s conduct.
She added: “We would very much want to see any variation in the planning application that allows the condition to be dropped refused by NFDC, and would like to see Redrow honouring their commitment.”
Echoing their criticism, Cllr Jacqui England said the bridge was of “paramount” importance.
Ian Sneddon, Redrow Southern Counties managing director, defended the company, saying it had been involved in discussions over the bridge since 2015 with NFDC, Hampshire County Council, Network Rail and South Western Railway.
“Unfortunately despite our best efforts we have not been able to reach a resolution with all parties in order to construct the footbridge,” Mr Sneddon said.
“Therefore, we submitted a revised planning application in late 2020 which requires the section 106 contributions and the need for the footbridge to be re-considered, and our obligations to be met through a package of alternative highway improvement works or an equivalent monetary contribution to the community well in excess of £1m, something that had been agreed in an earlier version of the planning agreement.
“We remain committed to reaching a solution that not only improves access to the town centre for residents at Lymington Shores, but benefits the wider community and encourages use of public transport and more sustainable modes such as walking and cycling.
“We hope NFDC will engage positively with our revised plans at the earliest opportunity.”
The planned structure would be 34.5 metres long and 2.4 metres wide, just north of the Lymington Town station building. It would be open 24 hours a day and comprise a steel frame with glass canopies and brick-clad lift tower.
Originally the conditions stipulated the bridge had to be built once 75 homes were constructed. But that figure was later revised to 125 – which NFDC revealed was reached in mid-2018. No building has been allowed since and 17 open market homes currently stand empty.
An NFDC spokesperson said it had “always made it very clear” it expected compliance with the “legal obligation” to construct the footbridge. NFDC added discussions had demonstrated the footbridge was “capable of being delivered”.
She added: “On receipt of this latest planning application, the council sought Redrow’s confirmation that they will enter into a new legal obligation to build the footbridge but no reply has been received. This is disappointing.
“There has never been any compelling case put forward by Redrow why the footbridge should not be built nor why the planning situation requiring its delivery has changed.”
Redrow’s scheme included a restaurant, art gallery and commercial space, but none of those have yet been built.
An NFDC planning report said the success of those features was “highly dependent on the provision of the bridge”.