Bill for Newmarket level crossing inquiry climbs to £20,000 as hearings continue
An inquiry which will decide the fate of a much-used Newmarket rail crossing is set to continue today, with taxpayers set to face a legal bill of £20,000.
Today Network Rail and Newmarket Town Council are set to continue making their case to planning inspector Mark Yates as the future of the well used Weatherby crossing hangs in the balance.
Newmarket Town Council, represented by barrister Merrow Golden, is fighting to keep the crossing open while Network Rail has argued the route is not a public right of way and should be closed.
Yesterday expert witness Rosalinde Emrys-Roberts gave evidence to the inquiry - and told the inspector the route was a public right of way before the railway existed and had historical documents to prove it.
Based on maps and documents dating back to the 18th and 19th century, the member of the Institute of Public Rights of Way Access Management showed the route where the crossing currently stands was used as a highway to travel between Newmarket to Saxon Street.
The inquiry is set to continue today, before pausing tomorrow and continuing on Thursday and Friday.
The investigation was launched after Suffolk County Council agreed to an application by resident Michael Smy to make the crossing a public right of way in 2018.
Costs up as rail inquiry goes on longer than anticipated
Newmarket's town councillors have been told the fight to keep the crossing open has ballooned.
Town council taxpayers are now facing a bill of £20,000. And it looks as though the town authority will have to meet all the costs, as requests for help with funding have been rejected by both East Cambridgeshire District Council and Suffolk County Council.
The Ely-based authority was asked to help as a large number of residents who use the crossing live in the Cambridgeshire part of the town, but it has refused to make any contribution.
Suffolk County Council, which designated the crossing as a public right of way, said it could not help as an interested party.
Last week Newmarket's town clerk told councillors the cost of the inquiry was "pushing our funds to the limit".
The council had originally set aside £10,000 for the inquiry, and had always been prepared to cover half the cost, but the clerk said because it was being held virtually as a result of the coronavirus pandemic it was taking longer than anticipated and costing more.
Even if the inspector finds for the town council, councillors were told it was unlikely to be awarded costs.