Protesters fight to save famous gates

DEMONSTRATORS staged a protest outside council offices in Frinton yesterday to show their objection to a plan to remove a wooden level crossing and replace it with an automatic barrier.

By Roddy Ashworth

DEMONSTRATORS staged a protest outside council offices in Frinton yesterday to show their objection to a plan to remove a wooden level crossing and replace it with an automatic barrier.

The manually-operated “gates” in the genteel Essex resort have an international reputation, with those living inside them - in reality between the crossing and the coast - being regarded as a class above those outside.

And when earlier this year Network Rail proposed replacing them with a new, remote-controlled crossing, there was uproar in the town, largely populated by pensioners who have come to the resort to enjoy its tranquillity and civility.


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So last night, when Network Rail representatives came to a private meeting with members of Frinton and Walton Town Council, about 40 members of the local residents association greeted them with placards and some very civilised booing.

The Triangle Shopping Centre demonstration did not turn out as nasty as the poll tax riots - as once predicted by the town's deputy mayor Terry Allen - but the crowd certainly made their feelings known.

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“I just don't see the necessity of changing the gates from how they are now,” said Maureen Justin, 75, who has lived in the resort for 30 years. “I feel its change for change's sake.”

Frinton Residents' Association chairman Brian McLellan, who lives in Third Avenue, said: “The biggest reason for the objection is safety. Obviously they have some symbolic value but that is not really the point.

“At the moment, the pedestrian gates are locked when the trains go past. There was a case in Chichester when an electric barrier came down and hit an old lady on the head, and she had to go to hospital.”

William Brindley, of Hopkins Close, said that last summer an 18-stone woman in a wheelchair had become trapped when it had lodged itself in between the gates.

“The crossing keeper came out and got it out of the rut,” he added. “If they were automatic she would have been stuck.”

Ten-year-old protestor Finlay McManus and his brother Drew, eight, who live in Coggeshall but were visiting relatives, said they believed the gates should stay as they are and that there would be problem with automatic barriers.

“If they went wrong they could cause large delays and huge traffic jams,” said Finlay. “And deaths,” added Drew.

However, not everyone was in favour of retaining the existing gates. Danielle Holland, 16, from Connaught Avenue, and her 17-year-old friend Sam Wilson, said they should be updated.

“I think they should change the gates because of the poor man who has to sit there every day for hours and hours to open and close them,” said Danielle, a hairdressing student.

“The pedestrian gates are hard to open, the gates are wooden and old and they don't make the beginning of Connaught Avenue look nice.

“Also, in 30 years time people here can have another protest to save the automatic barriers, and then 30 years after that they can have another one,” she said.

roddy.ashworth@eadt.co.uk

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