Plans to refurbish a railway station footbridge in Caerphilly county borough would “harmfully impact” its special character, an inspector has ruled.
Network Rail sought to replace the wooden decking on the Grade II listed bridge at Llanbradach but concerns over the building materials saw councillors refuse planning consent.
An appeal has since been dismissed by planning inspector Hywel Wyn Jones, who said none of the arguments supporting the scheme could outweigh its potential harm.
Mr Wyn Jones’ ruling was described as “disappointing” by Network Rail.
The wrought and cast-iron footbridge was listed in 2016 for its special architectural interest as a well-preserved railway bridge built in the late 19th century
Under the proposals rejected by Caerphilly County Borough Council in October 2018, its timber decking and tread would have been replaced by boards of glass reinforced plastic (GRP).
A non-slip layer of GRP currently conceals the planks from those crossing the footbridge, but they can be seen by people approaching the bridge from the station platforms.
The inspector’s report says: “The natural finish of the timber means that it has a natural and varied appearance.
“In contrast the introduction of an expanse of GRP would be noticeable as a modern alteration to the bridge that would fail to respect its traditional character.”
Cadw, the historic buildings body, noted that GRP was prone to becoming “unsightly” as it degrades over time, though Network Rail said the lighter material traps moisture and slows rusting.
Other works such as the strengthening of the bridge and the fitting of internally illuminated handrails, were not opposed by the council.
But Mr Wyn Jones said the appeal “lacked detail” and criticised Network Rail for not considering a range of options for reinforcing the bridge to accommodate a timber replacement.
“I find that the scheme would have a harmful impact on the special character and interest of the listed bridge,” he said.
Following the decision Network Rail maintained that GRP was a “safe and robust” material that required less maintenance than timber, reduced risk of injury and maintained the character of the footbridge.
A Network Rail spokeswoman said: “It is disappointing that our plans to refurbish the station footbridge have been rejected.
“We will work collaboratively with Caerphilly Council and other parties to agree how this essential work can be completed.”