Peak District villagers say their lives are being made a misery by “constant disruption” from Network Rail
A Derbyshire council has fully backed a plan telling Network Rail to move from a station-side site causing “terrible disturbance” to residents.
The station, next to the entrance to the Totley Tunnel, sits on the Sheffield to Manchester railway line and Network Rail has run its compound for around 20 years.
However, now Derbyshire Dales district councillors want to give the national transport body its marching orders, in what one member called a “Goliath and David” contest.
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This is due to the frequent comings and goings of 40 heavy goods vehicles loading and unloading tonnes of rail ballast and 30-foot sections of rail.
Residents have sent photos and footage of the disruption caused by the Network Rail compound – in the Hope Valley near Hathersage – which show loud, floodlit operations being carried out at night-time and during the early hours of the morning.
Cllr Peter O’Brien, who represents the Hathersage and Eyam ward, said that in the early hours of Saturday, Sunday and Monday each week the Grindleford station site is “akin to living next to a combination of a shipyard on the Clyde, forge-masters in Sheffield and under the Wembley Stadium floodlights”.
Network Rail has been approached for comment.
Cllr O’Brien said: “Network Rail use the former siding area as a base for six separate engineering and maintenance teams, these teams work throughout the night on many weekends a year and occasionally on weekdays, they have been doing this for 20 years but during that time the level of activity has increased 20 times to the point where it has become intolerable for residents.
“I use the term intolerable deliberately. Families’ lives are being made a misery, a misery to the point where finding a new base for Network Rail’s operations is the only answer.
“I say the only answer because residents have held many meetings over the years with Network Rail to try to find a way of working which suits all parties.
“Both our previous and current MP have been involved and our environmental health service have a thick file of the complaints and continues to be engaged probably on a weekly basis, but there has been no improvement, if anything the disturbance seems to get worse.
“Network Rail has made clear it has no intention to move off the site and have offered no ways to improve the situation.”
Cllr O’Brien suggested that Network Rail could relocate to other sites in Totley, Newhouses or Hope, or to its new base near Hathersage and Bamford.
He was supported in asking Network Rail to move by council leader, Cllr Garry Purdy.
Cllr Mark Chapman said the situation in Grindleford “must be horrendous” and Cllr Chris Furness dubbed the apparent living conditions “pretty awful”.
Cllr Mike Ratcliffe said: “We need to use our powers to persuade a large transport company to do something about the harm it is causing to the community there. It is very much like a Goliath and David situation.”
He said: “We have a responsibility to do our utmost to defend your rights (the rights of residents) and indeed to try and alleviate the problems that you have.
“We are not looking for huge legal costs or to somehow take this to the High Court and incur all sorts of financial penalties, we are simply trying to point out the error of their ways. Someone (Network Rail) is using their powers unduly and really without consideration for those who are being affected by their actions.”
Cllr Sue Bull, chairman, said: “It isn’t nice. Unfortunately there are too many big fish in the sea that us little ones don’t get to fight, but we will all get behind this and, try as we might, hope some kind of solution comes from it.”
Cllr O’Brien said he hoped Network Rail would now engage properly with the problem and “take rather more seriously their attempts to mitigate the terrible disturbance that they bring to our residents”.
Speaking to the LDRS, Grindleford parish councillor John Davies, who moved to a cottage close to the station 36 years ago, said the compound had caused “constant disruption”, including residents being unable to sleep or enjoy their gardens.
He said: “The small community living around Grindleford Station have suffered years of increasing disruption, day and night, from the ever expanding use made by Network Rail of what once was a disused railway sidings.
“Having ‘hit the buffers’ in our attempts to communicate and negotiate with Network Rail the opportunity to take our case to Derbyshire Dales District Council, through our local Councillor Peter O’Brien, felt like a ‘last chance’ – so we were absolutely delighted to get unanimous support from the council for Peter’s motion.
“We will await the response from Network Rail, but hopefully there is now some light at the end of the tunnel.”
In a statement to the council he said the current compound had once been a dark area home to frequent wildlife but that this “is no longer the case”.
He said: “The juxtaposition of the National Trust posters on Grindleford Station platform inviting visitors to enjoy ‘a breath of fresh air’ and ‘peaceful views’ with pictures of scenery and wildlife, and the industrial landscape Network Rail have created right next to the platform could not be more striking.
“In recent years the site has become a major hub for multiple rail projects to the point where we now expect some kind of disruption on a daily basis – and increasingly overnight.
“The level of noise and light pollution, along with the added air pollution that comes from the hundreds of visiting rail related vehicles is, for the many residents living within 50 yards of the site – and others living within earshot – is unacceptable and completely out of keeping with the setting.
“Fleets of 40 foot articulated low loaders come and go bringing huge JCB type machines, other heavy equipment and tons of rail ballast to the site and then uploaded for use on the rail line.
“Thirty foot sections of old rail that are brought back to the site from rail replacement operations are literally dropped to the ground, usually at night, and then uploaded to large lorries to be taken away – each time creating extremely loud crashing and banging.
“The result of this constant disruption has been that we are often unable to sleep or enjoy the sort of peace and quiet in our gardens that you’d expect in this location.
“As a result a number of residents are suffering from anxiety or depression.
“We are frustrated that five-plus years of complaints to and discussions with Network Rail and involvement of the council’s environmental health teams have led to no improvement in the situation – in fact it has got more intense with our complaints falling on deaf ears.”