PLANS are being made to erect fencing to restrict access to three arches of the landmark Five Arches Bridge over concerns of vandalism in the area.

Network Rail has submitted proposals to Darlington Borough Council to install palisade fencing blocking off the smallest arches on either side of the River Skerne, as well as the arch not served by a public footpath.

The arch over the river would remain open under the plans, as well as the arch over the footpath and cyclepath.

The proposed fencing would stand 2.4 metres or 7ft 8ins in height and would require a padlocked access gate to both sides within the fencing to allow Network Rail personnel to gain entry.

The Five Arches Bridge, which stands in the Rockwell Nature Reserve between Haughton-le-Skerne and North Road, is owned by Network Rail and currently serves the East Coast Mainline.

The railway management organisation has citied "vandalism and unauthorised access" for the need to fence off all access to arches on the embankments, with a requirement for "robust" fencing to be installed to guard against attempts to remove it.

Residents in the area have raised concerns over the proposed fencing however, claiming views of the viaduct will be diminished by the fences.

One object letter submitted to the Darlington Borough Council Planning Application Committee states: "As a local resident that often enjoys weekend walks along the Skerne at Rockwell Nature Reserve and also as a local history enthusiast, I have to object to the planning application for fencing proposed for the Five Arches Bridge in its current state.

"Although not listed, this 150-year-old railway bridge is a well-known landmark in both Darlington and on the East Coast Mainline.

"To all but cover three of the arches with a style of galvanised fencing that would commonly be found on an industrial estate will no doubt ruin the view.

"As I accept that the need for a barrier is justified, would it be too much to ask for an architect to design one that would be more in keeping with both the area and the bridge?

"The new footbridge 100 yards wast has been very tastefully designed, taking into consideration the town's railway history. Can't example be taken from that?"

Another comment suggests the proposed fencing could be painted black instead of being galvanised silver or grey posts.

No date has been set for the proposals to be heard by the council's Planning Applications Committee.