Plans to build new homes near rail line are ‘madness’ and could put lives at risk, say residents

Woodside rail crossing at Hassocks SUS-160704-162522001
Woodside rail crossing at Hassocks SUS-160704-162522001

Fears are growing that lives could be put at risk by a developer’s plans to build 137 new homes near a rail line in Hassocks.

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 a nearby unguarded rail crossing as a shortcut.

They say that the Woodside Crossing, just north of Hassocks Station on the main London-Brighton line, carries 332 trains a day at up to 90 mph.

A spokesman for the Friars Oak Fields Residents Association said: “This is madness. Putting a big housing estate the other side of the tracks from all of Hassocks’ schools and shops, and most of its housing, can only mean one thing: lots more people using it.

“Kids will use it as it is the quickest way to go to school or Adastra Park, or to see friends. The possible consequences don’t bear thinking about.”

He said that the electrified rail was just a few feet from the footpath and there were no barriers to stop children trespassing.

Rydon Homes are currently seeking outline planning permission from Mid Sussex District Council for the new homes and for a change of use of some of the land on the site to form a country open space.

But in a report submitted to the council by Network Rail, officials say that they carried out a census at the crossing and concluded that there were ‘not a high number of vulnerable users.’

However, the residents say the numbers of users would increase with the extra numbers of families moving into the new homes, if the go-ahead is given for them to be built.

Mid Sussex District Council is expected to consider the application within the next few months.

A spokesman for Network Rail said: “Network Rail takes the safety of its level crossings very seriously 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.”

A spokesman for Rydon Homes declined to comment.