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Campaigners to hold public meeting on Deeping St James signal box

Deeping St James signal box demolition protest 
Protestors at the box - front is Richard Brader and Katherine Claire ANL-140208-192233009

Deeping St James signal box demolition protest Protestors at the box - front is Richard Brader and Katherine Claire ANL-140208-192233009

People fighting to save a railway signal box from demolition hope to show the strength of support for their campaign at a public meeting.

More than 1,000 people have signed paper copies of a petition to save the 19th century building in Station Road, Deeping St James, with another 500 signatures online.

A public meeting on the issue will now be held at Deeping St James Scout Hut in Church Street at 7.30pm on Tuesday. And those leading the campaign hope to see hundreds of people there to show Network Rail, who want to knock down the signal box, the strength of feeling in the village.

Karen Clare, 44, of Deeping St James, one of those fighting Network Rail’s plans for the signal box, said: “A lot of people haven’t heard that the signal box is coming down so we’re hoping we’ll get a good turnout to give Network Rail a good kick up the backside.

“It might be just another signal box to them, but it’s our heritage and we’re checking everything we can to try to get them to change their minds.

“The response in the Deepings to the petitions going out has just been outstanding because we didn’t expect it to be so full on and everybody’s talking about it.

“There are plenty of volunteers who will keep the signal box up and running, we want it to stay in the village and we don’t want to lose it because once it’s gone, it’s gone for good.”

Network Rail wants to demolish the signal box as part of a £280 million modernisation of the Great Northern Great Eastern railway line between Doncaster and Peterborough.

The firm wants to replace the manual gates at the Deeping St James crossing with automatic barriers. But the signal box is in the way.

The box, which was built in the mid-1800s, is the only place in the village to carry the original St James Deeping name.

Another campaigner, 71-year-old Stuart Hall, said: “We’re reasonably pleased by how the petition is going and we’ve written one or two more letters, including one to the Prime Minister.

“Network Rail says the signal box is in its way and they are going to bulldose it.

“But a lot of people in the village don’t want this to happen because it’s the gateway to Deeping St James.”

The public meeting has been organised by parish and district councillor Judy Stevens and county councillor Phil Dilks, with invitations being sent to both Network Rail and John Hayes, MP for South Holland and the Deepings.

Coun Stevens (Independent) said: “It’s very typical of the people in the Deepings that they want to keep the signal box because, in the past, a lot of older buildings with great heritage have been lost.

“We were in danger of losing our library and we fought to keep it, so we really do want to draw a line in the sand and say ‘we’ve lost enough of our heritage and we’re not going to lie down and let you take any more.’”

Coun Dilks (Lab) added: “We were so wound up with the library fight that the signal box plans almost passed us by.

“We don’t want to stand in the way of progress, but it’s all too easy to knock down a signal box and we’re hopeful that we can save it.”

A Network Rail spokesman said: “We are very much aware of the strength of feeling in the community about the signal box at St James Deeping and we have put significant resources into looking at all the options to preserve it.

“We are continuing to assess every realistic option available to us, within the scope of significant time constraints and in consideration of the difficulties posed by the structure itself.

“We remain in contact with members of Deeping St James Parish Council and residents about the signal box’s future, including the possibility of preserving materials from it and donating its nameplate to the parish council.”

Campaigners hope a Network Rail representative will attend Tuesday’s meeting to see the strength of feeling first hand.

The online petition is still running at www.change.org.

 

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