Portishead Branch Line – MetroWest Phase 1

The views expressed in this page do not represent those of the Planning Inspectorate. This page consists of content submitted to the Planning Inspectorate by the public and other interested parties, giving their views of this proposal.

Portishead Branch Line - MetroWest Phase 1

Received 26 February 2020
From Town Legal LLP on behalf of Freightliner Limited

Representation

1 Introduction 1.1 This is a relevant representation for and on behalf of Freightliner Limited (‘Freightliner’) in respect of the application (‘the Application’) for a Development Consent Order (‘the Proposed Order’) for the delivery of the Portishead Branch Line (MetroWest Phase 1) (‘the Proposed Scheme’). The Application was submitted and is being promoted by North Somerset District Council (‘the District Council’) in consultation with Network Rail Infrastructure Limited (‘Network Rail’) and has been allocated Planning Inspectorate reference TR040011. The delivery of the Proposed Scheme includes works proposed to be carried out by Network Rail as particularised in Part 9 of the District Council’s Explanatory Memorandum. 1.2 Freightliner is a private limited company (registration number 03118392) whose registered office is at 3rd Floor, 90 Whitfield Street, Fitzrovia, London W1T 4EZ. It is a major rail freight transport and logistics company operating in various locations across the UK including Bedminster, Bristol. 1.3 In the Proposed Order, the District Council are seeking temporary possession powers over part of Freightliner’s Bristol terminal situated at South Liberty Lane, Bedminster, Bristol, BS3 2ST (‘Bristol Terminal’) 1.4 Freightliner has a long leasehold interest in the Bristol Terminal for a term of 125 years expiring on 31 May 2135. The freehold interest in the Bristol Terminal is owned by Network Rail. The Bristol Terminal is used by Freightliner as an intermodal rail freight terminal primarily for the import, export, and storage of shipping containers travelling to and from the ports of Felixstowe, Southampton and London Gateway. 1.5 For reasons including the uncertainty arising from the Proposed Scheme, Freightliner has recently agreed, in principle, heads of terms to sublet parts of the southern section of the Bristol Terminal site to two commercial tenants, on an interim use basis, including for use as a rail served depot for storing handling and distributing aggregates and as a containerised self-storage facility. 2 Summary of Freightliner’s Position 2.1 While Freightliner does not object in principle to the Proposed Scheme, for the reasons set out below, it objects to the inclusion in the Proposed Order of powers to temporarily possess land forming part of the Bristol Terminal. 3 Relevant plots within the Proposed Order 3.1 The Proposed Order identifies the following plots of land relevant to the Bristol Terminal site as being subject to proposed powers of temporary possession, namely: 3.1.1 Plots 17/05, 17/15 and 17/20, in which Freightliner has a long leasehold interest; and 3.1.2 Plot 17/10 which forms part of South Liberty Lane adjacent to the Bristol Terminal and comprises the only access to it from the highway. 3.2 These plots of land are identified within the Proposed Order as being required by Network Rail for the following purposes: 3.2.1 Plots 17/05 and 17/20 for the purposes of temporary construction compounds for materials storage; and 3.2.2 Plots 17/10 and 17/15 for the purposes of access to and from works compounds at Plots 17/05 and 17/20. 4 Freightliner’s outline grounds of objection 4.1 In summary, Freightliner objects to the inclusion of plots 17/05, 17/10, 17/15 and 17/20 in the Proposed Order for the following reasons. 4.2 First, the proposed dimensions and location of the access route over plot 17/15, would have a serious and unacceptable adverse effect on Freightliner’s commercial operations. The extent of Plot 17/15 is such that its exclusive occupation by the District Council and/or Network Rail would prevent access to the Bristol Terminal from South Liberty Lane or the wider highway network. 4.3 Freightliner have no objection in principle to the District Council and/or Network Rail having a temporary access route by agreement over plot 17/15 for the purposes of the Proposed Scheme providing: 4.3.1 That the dimensions of any such access route are reconfigured to enable access to South Liberty Lane; and 4.3.2 That any such access route is flexibly located to minimise the disruption to Freightliner/ its proposed tenants commercial operations. 4.4 Second, it is unnecessary and unjustified for temporary possession powers to be granted over plots 17/05, 17/15, and 17/20 in circumstances when Freightliner are agreeable in principle (subject to agreeing the details of these arrangements): 4.4.1 To the District Council and/or Network Rail temporarily occupying plots 17/05 and 17/20 for the purposes of temporary construction compounds for materials storage (the dimensions and locations of these work compounds having been agreed); and 4.4.2 To the District Council and/or Network Rail having a temporary access route over plot 17/15 for the purposes of access for works to alter the existing track layout close to that facility providing the dimensions and location of the access route protects Freightliner’s commercial operations. 4.5 Freightliner are currently in negotiations with Network Rail regarding agreeing heads of terms of a conditional agreement with Network Rail providing- in terms- for a short term subletting of the compound areas to Network Rail with associated access within Freightliner’s long-lease area/ operational terminal. 4.6 At the time of preparing these relevant representations, heads of terms for an agreement have been received from Network Rail in respect of Plot 17/20 but no heads of terms have been received from Network Rail in respect of Plot 17/05. In addition, no agreement, to date, has been reached with Network Rail on the dimensions and location of the proposed access route over Plot 17/15. 4.7 Freightliner remain willing and able to continue negotiating with Network Rail and it is sincerely hoped on Freightliner’s part that mutually agreeable commercial terms can shortly be reached in respect of suitable temporary occupation and access over the Bristol Terminal site. 4.8 Thirdly, there are no details provided in the Proposed Order or supporting documents as to the length of time for which temporary possession powers are sought over part of the Bristol Terminal site. Reference is made in the Proposed Order that temporary possession powers are sought for up to 12 months following completion of the Proposed Scheme. Freightliner considers such an extended and uncertain period of temporary possession to be unnecessary and unjustified in circumstances when Network Rail have indicated that temporary occupation and access of the parts of the Bristol Terminal site is only required for short defined periods of time (e.g. 8 weeks has been proposed in negotiations for plot 17/20). Freightliner consider that such an uncertain and potentially open-ended period of temporary possession in the Proposed Order, as opposed to a short defined period in any agreement with Network Rail, causes an unacceptable level of uncertainty to Freightliner’s commercial operations making it difficult if not impossible for Freightliner to forward plan its business when it is wholly unclear from the Proposed Order documents when the temporarily possessed land would be handed back. 5 Conclusion 5.1 Among other things, for the reasons set out above, Freightliner considers that: 5.1.1 It is not necessary and/or justifiable for the Council to be granted temporary possession powers in relation to plots 17/05, 17/10, 17/15 and 17/20 because there is an alternative means of bringing about the purposes for which temporary possession powers are sought by means of agreement with Network Rail for temporary occupation and temporary access over part of the Bristol Terminal site; 5.1.2 The adverse operational impacts of the temporary possession powers, on Freightliner’s business, in particular with respect to the current proposed dimensions and location of the access route over plots 17/10 and 17/15, are unacceptable; 5.1.3 Therefore, that there is no compelling case in the public interest for temporary possession powers to be granted over part of the Bristol Terminal; and 5.1.4 Accordingly, that the Proposed Order should not be made, and development consent should not be granted, unless and until the matters referred to above have been resolved. 5.2 In the event that agreement with Network Rail and the District Council cannot be reached, Freightliner hereby fully reserves its position and the right to submit further detailed written representations for the purposes of the examination of the Proposed Order and to attend in person any compulsory acquisition hearing listed by the Examining Authority. 5.3 A copy of these relevant representations has been provided to the District Council.