A STEVENTON resident who has been chairing negotiations over the proposed demolition of the village's historic railway bridge has said it should be knocked down.

Stewart Lilly has been chairing meetings between those opposed to the scheme, including Steventon Parish Council, and Network Rail since shortly after the official application was submitted by the rail company in April last year.

Designed to be an independent mediator between the sides, Mr Lilly, who served as a county councillor for the area from 2009 until May 2017, said he had been ‘disappointed’ that relations had broken down in the past five months.

He said: “Things could get a little heated but there was communication there.”

Mr Lilly added that while he sympathised with businesses concerned over the consequences of a 10-month closure of a main route into Steventon while the Brunel bridge is replaced with a concrete alternative, he felt stopping the demolition of the bridge would only delay the inevitable.

He said: “My fear is the bridge is 181-years-old, it isn’t built for the usage it has now. If say a few bricks fell onto the track there could be an accident.

“You only have to stand on the bridge to feel the vibrations.

"It has been repaired before, I think around 20 years ago, but that won’t hold forever.

“I know no one is going to be happy but do we want for it to fall down – for a train crash?”

The decision over whether to knock down the Steventon bridge was due to be made by Vale of White Horse District Council’s planning committee earlier this month, but was delayed following questions over whether alternatives had been fully considered as part of Network Rail’s electrification plans.

But Mr Lilly, who lives in Steventon and uses the bridge twice a day, said: “I know it is going to be an awful inconvenience, we’ve had road closures in and around Oxfordshire for years, but my feeling is it needs to be done.”

He added he worried that if the application, which has now been deferred on at lease seven occasions, took much longer it would be taken out of the hands of the local authority and be ruled on by central government.

The rail company insists the project is the only way to electrify the line and have put ‘significant resources’ into exploring alternatives but villagers have said the move will ‘cut out the heart’ of Steventon.

A new vote by councillors is expected next month.