Members of the Finance and Democracy Committee have approved proposals to begin the process to compulsory purchase a piece of land at Squires Gate Station to create a fully accessible platform.
The delivery of a step-free accessible route to the platform has been a long-term desire of the Council and the South Fylde Line Community Rail Partnership.
As part of the development of the former Pontins site by Persimmon Homes, a footpath at the end of New Road was installed towards Squires Gate Station platform up to the end of the land which Persimmon owns.
There remains a small patch of land between the land owned by Persimmon and the station platform which is ideally located to create a direct access to the station.
The Council made initial enquiries regarding the unregistered land in 2018 and identified a person who claimed ownership of the land.
In 2019 the council agreed to purchase the land for £3,000 with fees of up to £2,000 plus VAT, provided that the claimed owner first register their ownership with the Land Registry.
In February 2021, with no progress having been made in relation to the agreement of the sale from the assumed owner, Fylde’s legal team advised to start the process to obtain a Compulsory Purchase Order (‘CPO’) for the land.
The power to obtain the land compulsorily is in section 226(1)(b) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, which covers land “which is required for a purpose which it is necessary to achieve in the interests of the proper planning of an area in which the land is situate”.
The Council considers that enabling access to the rail network at Squires Gate station for wheelchair users and others for whom the stepped access presents difficulties is a purpose which falls within this power.
Leader of Fylde Council and Chairman of the Finance and Democracy Committee Karen Buckley said: “At present, the only way to access the station platform involves a steep flight of steps from the top of Squires Gate bridge. My fellow St Leonard’s Ward councillors and I have sought a solution to this for many years. The re-development of the Pontins site was an ideal opportunity and a path was accommodated from New Road to the station which would make it accessible on the flat. A tiny strip of land now stands in the way of completing the project hence the need to go down the route of compulsory purchase which is fully justified in my eyes owing to the public benefit.”
Barrie Russell, Volunteer and member of the Friends of Squires Gate Railway Station added: “we have been seeking a solution for many years because we constantly see families struggle to negotiate the 40+ steps with heavy luggage, prams and cycles, but more importantly we have seen disabled people look down the steps with fear and sheer disappointment at not being able to use the station. Once level access is in place it will open up new opportunities for everyone, including residents of the new housing on the former Pontins site. My fellow volunteers and the Blackpool & Fylde Rail Users Association wholeheartedly support and welcome the actions being taken by Fylde Borough Council to facilitate level access to the station”.
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