National Railway Museum Objection

This week York Cycle Campaign submitted an objection to the reserved matters planning application for changes to the National Railway Museum which will see Leeman Road closed as it runs between the two parts of the museum.

Instead users will have to divert along the riverside path, or along a new route proposed that diverts west around the South Yard engine sheds onto Cinder Lane. Both routes increase the distance required to travel and raise concerns about personal safety, not only for cyclists but also pedestrians.

Below is our letter of objection submitted to the planners.

York Cycle Campaign (YCC) is supportive of the National Railway Museum (NRM)’s desire to expand and enhance its exhibition space, but not at the expense of access for pedestrians, cyclists and other non-motorists.

It therefore objects in the strongest possible terms to the current plans and asks City of York Council (CoYC) to refuse permission and ask the NRM to produce an alternative plan that retains a safe, direct, unrestricted 24/7 access route through the expanded NRM site for pedestrians, cyclists and other non-motorists.

The plans, as put forward, will significantly curtail direct pedestrian access and prohibit direct cycle access through the expanded NRM site, thus removing a key route for pedestrians, cyclists and other non-motorists in this area of the city, whilst the proposed alternatives are deeply flawed (see below). This means that if the plans are implemented, they will cause a significant loss of amenity for York residents, particularly those who live to the north-west of the NRM site.

Cyclists (and others e.g. users of type 3 mobility scooters and e-scooters) will face significantly longer (400m) and less safe journeys. Pedestrians will have to navigate the restrictions of the NRM walkway (see below) and outside NRM opening hours (when the walkway is closed) will, like cyclists, face significantly longer and less safe journeys. The negative impact will be greatest on the vulnerable, including the elderly, disabled cyclists, users of class 3 mobility scooters (such as a clip-on wheelchair handcycle), women and families, and young people. 

YCC notes that:

  • Mr Paul Singleton, the Government Inspector heading up the public inquiry into the stopping up of Leeman Road, severely criticised the Walkways Agreement: “It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that those drafting the [Walkways] agreement have put the economic interest and convenience of the NRM above the amenity of those who would be expected to use this as an alternative route for journeys which they are currently entitled to make on an unrestricted public highway” and “Having reviewed all of the evidence on this matter I find that those shortcomings [of the Walkways Agreement] are significant in scale. In my view they are likely to operate so as to render this route of only limited assistance in mitigating the effect of the partial stopping up on local residents and others working or visiting the area who currently rely upon Leeman Road as a quick and direct route to the Station and the City Centre”;
  • the plans run counter to the National Planning Policy Framework, which states that schemes should “Give priority first to pedestrians and cycle movements, both within the scheme and with neighbouring areas” and “Address the needs of people with disabilities and reduced mobility in relation to all modes of transport”;
  • The plans run counter to the expectations of the Government’s vision for cycling and walking (Gear Change) and its guidance (LTN 1/20) for cycle provision. For example, the proposals fail principle 1 “Cycle infrastructure should be accessible to everyone from 8 to 80 and beyond: it should be planned and designed for everyone. The opportunity to cycle in our towns and cities should be universal” and principle 18 “Cycle routes must flow, feeling direct and logical”;
  • The plans run counter to CoYC’s stated commitments to enhance active travel. By discouraging active travel, the plans will also reduce CoYC’s chances of achieving its target of net-zero carbon emissions by 2030;
  • The plans are not supported by local residents in the St Peter’s Quarter area and beyond, who believe that the NRM and CoYC have ridden roughshod over their legitimate concerns;
  • The plans assume the full approval of the deeply flawed Walkways Agreement even though we understand that this agreement has not yet been finalised or approved.  We believe it is essential that the access arrangements along the Leeman Road corridor are formally approved – following proper public scrutiny – before planning permission can be granted for any development across this area.  

Good pedestrian and cycle access through the expanded NRM site could and should be compatible with the NRM’s expansion. The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam faced a similar challenge but has retained full 24/7 pedestrian and cycle access through its building despite significant constraints imposed by space and its historic fabric (which do not apply to the same extent in this case). The Rijksmuseum walk/cycle path is now a tourist attraction in its own right and, with vision, a similar result could be achieved at the NRM in York, raising the profile of both the NRM and CoYC, and demonstrating the commitment of both bodies to sustainability. The low number of visitors and staff arriving at the NRM by cycle now is in part due to the existing access roads not being cycle friendly.  As York prepares to welcome Active Travel England, it will be deeply embarrassing if York, instead of facilitating active travel, is seen to be actively working against it. 

The museum you can cycle through – watch BicycleDutch’s video of the Rijksmuseum underpass. Read their history of the museum and underpass

Problems with the proposed walkway access through the NRM

The NRM’s Walkways Agreement does not provide an appropriate level of access to compensate for the loss of access along Leeman Road as cyclists, class 3 mobility scooter users, and other non-motorists (e.g. e-scooters and pedestrians pushing a cycle) will be excluded entirely and pedestrians will only have access during NRM opening hours.  

Even when the NRM walkway is open, it will not be possible for pedestrians to be confident that their journey through will be swift or convenient due to the highly restrictive conditions of use (e.g. bag-searches, queuing) and the ability for the NRM to close the walkway at short notice. Moreover, the Walkways Agreement’s legal status is such that it would not be afforded the protection of a right of way.  

The walkway is on the desire line for cyclists heading to and from the city centre so it would be the logical route through the site as it is the most direct.

Comparison of the public rights of way produced by Councillor Taylor

Problems with the alternative walk/cycle routes

The alternative walk/cycle routes have severe limitations and are not an acceptable alternative to a safe, direct, unrestricted 24/7 access route through the expanded NRM site for pedestrians, cyclists and other non-motorists:

  • The river route, even with remedial work, will still be liable to flooding and icing over, and its isolated/secluded nature will remain off-putting for many (especially women and other vulnerable users) after dark. It is also not a direct route for residents in the St Peter’s Quarter area.
  • The proposed new walk/cycle route through the York Central development will be indirect, significantly longer, and will again be off-putting for many (especially women and other vulnerable users) after dark due to the development zoning. Furthermore, it will not benefit from the cleaning and winter treatment schedules that are currently provided for Leeman Road.  

Neither alternative route meets/will meet the expectations of the new Government vision for cycling and walking (Gear Change) or the guidance (LTN 1/20) for cycle provision.  We hope that Active Travel England will review this application and others in York to ensure best practice in cycling and walking is achieved.   

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