Wenhaston residents speak out against Southwold Railway Trust bid

By STAFF REPORTER
Saturday, May 12, 2012
9:25 AM

A proposal to reinstate a stretch of Suffolk railway has been met with criticism from villagers living close to the site, with some labelling it a “theme park”.

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The Southwold Railway Trust has applied to Suffolk Coastal for permission to restore a half-mile line at Wenhaston as a heritage railway site, running a single steam engine and coach in the direction of Blythburgh seven times a day.

At a public meeting in the village hall, vocal opponents of the bid outnumbered a handful of supporters as they expressed concerns about the potential impact on the surrounding countryside, the influx of traffic from construction vehicles and visitors, and because the site is located on a flood plain.

The trust’s James Hewett and John Bennett attempted to allay concerns, arguing that measures would be in place to mitigate any disruption and that the site would benefit the village and enhance an area of outstanding natural beauty.

Mr Bennett added: “We are trying to keep things as inconspicuous as possible. The landscape is very important in the scheme of things.

“We want to do something that benefits the village as much as possible – that will strengthen the local economy and provide local employment.”

Trains last operated on the track more than 80 years ago and, since 1994, the trust has explored whether the Victorian Southwold-Halesworth 3ft gauge branch line, via Wenhaston, Blythburgh and Walberswick, could be reopened.

In 2007, Waveney District Council rejected its bid for a slightly revised version of the entire original route.

The trust’s new plans include rebuilding the old Wenhaston station and creating a wildlife interpretation centre and a visitor centre, featuring a café and museum.

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