Fringe Box



Network Rail Agree to Replace ‘Ugly’ Fence It Erected Close to Iconic Landmark

Published on: 20 Oct, 2023
Updated on: 24 Oct, 2023

14th-century St Catherine’s Chapel

By Martin Giles

An imposing 2.4 metre black metal fence erected close to an iconic Guildford landmark is to be taken down and replaced following objection by the St Catherine’s Village Association (SCVA).

The fence was installed following repair work made necessary by a landslip in 2020 onto the Guildford to Portsmouth line from the cutting into the greensand hill by the southern mouth of the tunnel that passes under.

Although the line was quickly reopened, repair work continued for over a year during Covid lockdown periods on ground stabilisation works but on completion, visitors to the St Catherine’s Hill beauty spot were disappointed that the new fence, closer to the 14th-century chapel than its predecessor, spoiled the chapel’s setting and impinged on the views.

The imposing 2.4 metre fence, behind the barrier.

SCVA chair Lorimer Burn said: “During the repair process, Network Rail discovered a 14th-century cave

See: Mystery of St Catherine’s Hill Continues, Cave Talk Reveals Sparse New Evidence

“One of the engineers mentioned there were over 100 similar projects nationwide. In one instance in Scotland, the landslip proved fatal and compensation has just been agreed with the relatives of the deceased. So it is perhaps understandable that Network Rail and its contractors were late applying for planning consent, and not fully focused on its provisions. In fact, the application was only submitted after the works were finished.

“A 2.4-metre high black fence was erected at the end of the project to ensure the public was kept off the line and from falling down the embankment. However, this ran close to the historic St Catherine’s Monument, was highly oppressive to walkers there, and the black colour made it stand out as an ugly scar across the landscape.

“Steps down to the track had fluorescent yellow handrails which could be seen a mile away, again disfiguring the view of the area of outstanding natural beauty.

“The Village Association made detailed representations to the Planning Inspectorate,  required to consider the retrospective application from Network Rail (instead of Guildford Borough Council) because St Catherine’s Hill is designated as common land. In particular, SCVA pointed out that the application submitted was for a 1.8-meter-high fence, not 2.4 metres.

“The inspector accepted the SCVA case, and Network Rail recognised its mistake and agreed to take down the offending fence and substitute one of the right height and of dark green colour to make it less conspicuous. The handrails would also be changed to a light grey colour. And now, finally, the works have actually been completed.

The less conspicuous new lower and green fence.

“We are delighted that network rail has finally erected a fence of the right height and colour. It took a bit of prompting but makes a real difference and restores the views of the countryside from St Catherine’s Hill and the ancient chapel. It’s good that this has been done before leaf-fall since it is in the winter months that the fence is most visible.”

Ward councillor Tom Hunt (Lib Dem, St Nicolas) commented: “I’m delighted that Network Rail has finally replaced the fencing by St. Catherine’s Chapel. It’s been a long process to achieve this result.

“My thanks go to Lorimer Burn, John Harrison, and members of St Catherine’s Village Association for pursuing this matter, and to GBC’s officers for their persistence in ensuring that Network Rail delivered on its obligations.”

Network Rail has been invited to comment.

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Responses to Network Rail Agree to Replace ‘Ugly’ Fence It Erected Close to Iconic Landmark

  1. Andy Halliday Reply

    October 20, 2023 at 7:09 pm

    Well done Lorimer.

  2. Mr Keith Francis Reply

    October 20, 2023 at 11:40 pm

    Before I worked at Langton Priory after it was the National Assistance Board offices the workmen doing the repairs / upgrade found the entrance to a tunnel in the basement which although they went a short way along it for safety and security it was sealed off but reportedly it was the monks’ escape route to or from St Catherine’s Priory.
    Did Lorimer Burn know of this?

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