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Congham bridge planning application: link to the Council's planning portal
Please record your Stance as OBJECT

The bridge carrying St Andrew’s Lane over the former Midland & Great Northern Joint Railway at Congham, Norfolk was an elaborate and eye-catching structure. An early example of its type, dating from 1926, it was one of six partly or completely rebuilt using a bridge-building system developed by pioneering engineer William Marriott who had brought together his previous work on block casting and concrete reinforcement.

The bridge at Congham, captured shortly after its construction.

But the structure was infilled by National Highways in 2021 without any thought to its role as a reminder of our past, an important feature within the local landscape or an infrastructure asset with potential future value. The company also didn’t consider the environmental impacts of quarrying, transporting and placing more than a thousand tonnes of aggregate and concrete in a rural setting.

Only two of the six Marriott bridges now survive.

The bridge at Congham after infilling.

National Highways saw this structure as a liability and wanted rid of it. To do so, it exploited permitted development rights applying only to immediate, temporary works in emergency situations. But the infilling was intended to be permanent and took place 17 months after the company notified the local authority of its plans. No evidence of an emergency was provided; the bridge's condition was Fair.

Because National Highways breached those permitted development rights by failing to seek written consent for retention of the infill beyond the maximum 12-month permitted period, the Borough Council of King’s Lynn & West Norfolk has asked it to submit a retrospective planning application.

The company’s behaviour undermines trust and confidence in public bodies. We believe the bridge should be sympathetically repaired as an important heritage asset, restoring its availability for any possible repurposing.

We ask our supporters to object to the planning application.

Congham bridge planning application: link to the Council's planning portal
Please record your Stance as OBJECT

Via its Local Plan, the Borough Council of King's Lynn & West Norfolk has adopted several policies upon which objections could be based. These include:

  • Policy CS01 Spatial Strategy which states that “Development priorities for the borough will be to...protect and enhance the heritage, cultural and environmental assets…”
  • Policy CS08 Sustainable Development which states that “All new development in the borough should be of high quality design. New development will be required to demonstrate its ability to protect and enhance the historic environment…achieve high standards of sustainable design.”
  • Policy CS11 Transport: Strategic issues which states that “Development proposals should demonstrate that they have been designed to…promote sustainable forms of transport appropriate to their particular location…”
  • Policy CS12 Environmental Assets: Green Infrastructure, Historic Environment, Landscape Character, Biodiversity and Geodiversity which states that “Development should seek to avoid, mitigate or compensate for any adverse impacts on biodiversity, geodiversity and heritage as well as seeking to enhance sites through the creation of features of new biodiversity, geodiversity and heritage interest. The design of new development should be sensitive to the surrounding area…”

The Council also has a policy, C.14 DM13 - Railway Trackways, which states that “Disused railway trackways and routes can be a valuable resource, such as, providing future routes for footpaths or cycleways. It is therefore important to protect them from adverse development which might otherwise compromise their future as alternative economic or recreational transport routes.”

The National Planning Policy Framework also provides grounds for objection, amongst which are:

  • Paragraph 106(c) which states that “Planning policies should… identify and protect, where there is robust evidence, sites and routes which could be critical in developing infrastructure to widen transport choice and realise opportunities for large scale development.”
  • Paragraph 130(c) which states that “Planning policies and decisions should ensure that developments …are sympathetic to local character and history, including the surrounding built environment and landscape setting, while not preventing or discouraging appropriate innovation or change (such as increased densities).”
  • Paragraph 190 which states that “Plans should set out a positive strategy for the conservation and enjoyment of the historic environment, including heritage assets most at risk through neglect, decay or other threats. This strategy should take into account…the desirability of sustaining and enhancing the significance of heritage assets, and putting them to viable uses consistent with their conservation…the wider social, cultural, economic and environmental benefits that conservation of the historic environment can bring…the desirability of new development making a positive contribution to local character and distinctiveness…and opportunities to draw on the contribution made by the historic environment to the character of a place.”

Congham bridge planning application: link to the Council's planning portal
Please record your Stance as OBJECT

Congham bridge: Questions & Answers

A sheet providing answers to some of the questions often posed about Congham bridge, the circumstances around its infilling and its impacts.

August 2023: PDF (413kB)

Further legal submission from The HRE Group's solicitors

A letter submitted by Richard Buxton Solicitors summarising further permitted development considerations around National Highways' retrospective planning application, with evidence showing the approach taken by other councils in similar situations.

July 2023: PDF (2.6MB)

The HRE Group comments

Further comments submitted by The HRE Group in response to additional information provided by National Highways' regarding its planning application to retain the infill at Congham bridge.

July 2023: PDF (1.3MB)

The HRE Group's objection

The objection submitted by The HRE Group to National Highways' planning application to retain the infill at Congham bridge.

June 2023: PDF (1MB)

Legal submission from The HRE Group's solicitors

A letter submitted by Richard Buxton Solicitors summarising legal considerations around National Highways' retrospective planning application.

June 2023: PDF (56kB)

About Us

The HRE Group is an alliance of walking, cycling and heritage campaigners, engineers and greenway developers who regard the Historical Railways Estate’s structures to be strategically valuable in the context of building a better future.

Last updated 19 October 2023
© 2023 The HRE Group