ANGRY residents branded a meeting a “farce” after Southampton City Council planning bosses approved controversial extensions to railway sidings.

The Network Rail scheme means that half-mile-long trains could drive just metres from people’s homes.

Having previously been turned down, Network Rail resubmitted an application to extend the sidings, and build a small park – branded “two bins and a bench” – in Redbridge.

After confusion among members of the planning panel, it was eventually passed at a meeting on Tuesday night, though the council said it would carry out the works for the various green spaces put forward by Network Rail.

It means that the council will be given £429,000 by Network Rail to build a “pocket park” on Tate Road and other greenery near to the front of Redbridge Wharf Park.

The siding extension will allow longer trains to go through the station, in a bid to take 364 heavy goods vehicles off the road each day.

Planning officers later admitted that the figure was purely theoretical, and could not guarantee the vehicles would be taken off city streets.

Councillor Cathie McEwing, pictured inset, who represents Redbridge ward, criticised the meeting and said the residents had been ignored again.

She said: “Residents of Redbridge are not opposed to the idea here, but this application is not acceptable and it hasn’t been well thought out.

“I hadn’t even heard of a pocket park until this application, and turns out it’s just two bins and a bench.”

Residents of Redbridge left the meeting with cries of “farce” and “ridiculous”, with some confusion among councillors on what they were actually voting on when the plans were approved.

The seven-person panel, accompanied by planning officers and a solicitor, attempted to clarify matters.

The question had been asked as to whether Network Rail should carry out the green space work, or if they should give funds to the council for the authority to do the work.

When it was decided the council should do the work for the green spaces, the entire scheme was also approved by four to three.

ABP Southampton director Alastair Welch welcomed the decision and said: “A key part of our Air Quality Strategy is to further grow the volume of goods to and from the port by rail – goods by rail have 80% less NOX emissions than the equivalent by road.

“The decision to further develop the sidings in Redbridge will allow the port to further reduce emissions in future.”