Northumberland Line

SLC Property is advising Northumberland County Council (NCC) on land assembly, planning and environmental matters relating to the reopening of a former rail passenger service line between Ashington and Newcastle.

Background

The project involves the conversion of a 12 mile stretch from its existing use as a freight line to once again serve passengers.  The scheme includes six new stations at Ashington, Blyth Bebside, Bedlington, Newsham, Seaton Delaval and Northumberland Park and associated infrastructure such as the construction of new footbridges, earthworks, and level crossing upgrades.  The scheme is currently in development ahead of construction in 2022.

Services provided

Land & Property

  • Managing land references for the project.
  • Acquiring over 100 land parcels/rights required to deliver the project.
  • Establishing the ownership and management regime for completed assets (e.g., stations and bridges).
  • Delivering multiple temporary access licences for ground investigation and ecology surveys.
  • Management of objectors in advance of an inquiry.
  • Negotiation with rail industry stakeholders.

Planning

  • Led on pre-application discussions with the local planning authority and other key stakeholders.
  • Authored Planning Statements to show the compliance of the proposals with planning policies and benefits to the region.
  • Assembled, submitted and managed the determination of the applications for planning permission and related consents for the new railway stations and other associated works.
  • Provided contributions to the TWAO, including providing input to the Statement of Case, authoring a Proof of Evidence, and appearing as an expert witness at the inquiry.

Environmental and ecology

  • Prepared and authored supporting Landscape and Visual Impact Assessments, proposed landscaping plans, Design and Access Statements, Ecological Impact Assessments, and discussions regarding biodiversity net gain requirements.

Community/stakeholder engagement

  • Devised the public consultation strategy to align requirements for the pre-planning application, TWAO and Level Crossing Order consultations.
  • Authored Statements of Community Engagement to support planning applications.

Industry Agreements

  • Arranging agreements for the adoption and maintenance of assets (i.e., stations, footbridges, underpasses) along the line.
  • Agreement with the operator on the running of new train services.
  • Working with the chosen Station Facility Owner to ensure that all their requirements have been considered as part of final designs.
  • Legal property agreements required for the opening of the line and stations.
  • Rail Regulatory Processes to allow the opening of the line, stations, and services.

Challenges

  • The Northumberland Line is one of the country’s most ambitious rail schemes currently being delivered by a local authority in terms of scale and delivery timescales.
  • The approach for securing land and consents is multifaceted and significant knowledge and resource has been required to determine the optimum delivery strategy.
  • The project is being delivered by several different contractors; each have different but overlapping temporary land requirements. Close coordination is required with each of the contractors to ensure that all essential sites are secured.
  • ligning the consultation requirements of the different land consenting routes so that only one public consultation was required.
  • Reaching agreement with the rail industry to ensure that the finished product can be taken into use when complete.

Key accomplishments to date

  • Developing a complex strategy for obtaining land and consents required to deliver the project on time and on budget.
  • Working closely with project design leads to determine the extent of land and rights required to be included in the Transport & Works Act Order (TWAO), which was submitted in May 2021.
  • Undertaking a wide range of ecology and ground surveys.
  • Submitting planning applications for all six stations with determination expected later in 2021.
  • Agreements with rail industry (both Network Rail and the Train Operator) regarding design of the stations and required facilities.

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