RELOCATION OF BLAKEDOWN SIGNAL BOX, DY10 3JL DESIGN AND ACCESS STATEMENT
The signal box by the level crossing at Blakedown Station has been a landmark in the village since it was opened in 1888. It was finally taken out of service in August 2012 by Network Rail as part of the automation of the signalling system from Birmingham to Worcester along with the remaining box at Stourbridge Junction and those at Kidderminster and Hartlebury.
Background to the project
Churchill and Blakedown Parish Council received many representations from residents about the possibility of saving it from demolition and have been successful in negotiating its transfer to the ownership of the Parish Council from Network Rail on the condition that it can be relocated. In order to allow the signal box to be removed from its current location, Network Rail are funding it to be carefully dismantled by the Parish Council’s specialist relocation contractors.
A location has been identified on land belonging to Wyre Forest Community Housing on the opposite side of Mill Lane to where it currently stands, behind the station platform. This land currently forms part of the rear garden of 2 Sculthorpe Road. The tenants are willing to give up this part of their garden which is too large for them to maintain, and Wyre Forest Community Housing has agreed to make the land available either at a peppercorn rent or by direct transfer to the Parish Council.
It is proposed to locate the box in the corner of the plot, close to Mill Lane and immediately behind the station platform. This is in order to keep it as far away from nos. 2 and 4 Sculthorpe Road as possible and to give the impression from its position that it could still associated with the railway. This will reinforce the heritage aspect of the project and make for ease of access.
The conservation aspect
The Parish Council is making a funding bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund for the reconstruction of the box and the preparation of the new site. It was locally listed as a Heritage Asset in 2012 by Wyre Forest District Council, and as far as possible it will be rebuilt as original. The original windows, replaced by Network Rail some years ago have been found in storage at the Severn Valley Railway and will be used to remake new ones to the original pattern. The original straight exterior staircase now lost will be replaced with a new L-shaped one closely following the original GWR pattern. By making it L-shaped rather than straight it is possible to bring the location closer to the road. The boundary to Mill Lane will be picket fenced to harmonise with the railway and include a new Parish Council notice board. The wooden vehicle gate, though new, will echo the appearance of an old style level crossing gate.
A new rear door will be formed in place of previous ground floor window to enable access to the ground floor, including for disabled.
It is intended that the box will be painted and maintained in GWR livery as on the Severn Valley and reflecting similar practice by Network Rail at their main line stations at Hagley and Birmingham Moor Street. The nameboard “Churchill and Blakedown Signal Box”, currently in safekeeping, will either be refixed, or a replica made and used instead due to the perceived value of the metal original.
The community use aspect
The signal box will be used in future in various ways as a community resource. A new pedestrian access will be formed from Mill Lane, and a gated vehicle access in the approximate position that the existing unofficial vehicle access to no. 2 Sculthorpe Road already exists west of the proposed pedestrian access. The area north of the signal box behind the platform is a turning area so that vehicles can enter and leave the site in forward gear.
The new door at the back of the signal box will give access to a workshop area, disabled WC and a disabled lift, the provision of which is seen as very important by the Parish Council.
The workshop area can be used by the Parish Council’s handyman and for storage of pooled village fête equipment such as gazebos, tables and chairs. The disabled lift will ensure the widest possible access to the facilities on the first floor. Because of the nature of the signal box, it is anticipated that the first floor will lend itself to a variety of community uses including small meetings, a local history centre, and organised safe viewing of the railway for schools and other organisations, including from outside the Parish. There is the possibility of using it for photography and as a film position including scenic views not currently available due to its relocation. There is also the potential to have a volunteer safety lookout at certain times of day over the now unmanned level crossing.
New private access for 2 Sculthorpe Road
The proposal includes provision by the Parish Council of a new vehicle access and hardstanding for no. 2 Sculthorpe Road, adjacent to the proposed vehicle access to the signal box. Worcestershire Highways are satisfied that this access and the signal box site’s own vehicle access are sufficiently distant from the level crossing.
Churchill and Blakedown Parish Council
4th June 2013