Wenhaston: Villagers angry at tree felling on railway site
08:45 30 January 2014
Developers of a heritage railway have agitated their new neighbours by cutting down trees before getting consent to build.
Although no planning rules are being breached at the site in Wenhaston - where the Southwold Railway Trust (SRT) wants to reinstate a stretch of the old Halesworth to Southwold line - objectors claim the group is “preparing the ground” for a positive outcome to its bid.
The Trust, which bought the land last May after Suffolk Coastal threw out its first application for a half-mile track and heritage centre, said it was preserving the site while it mounts an appeal against the decision.
SRT spokesman, Reverend Simon Pitcher said: “We can understand the concern, but this is not what is happening. Heavy winds caused quite a lot of damage to trees. Some fell over and some died. We are carrying out responsible stewardship on trees that have not been managed for a long time.”
Sarah Montague, whose family live at the east end of the proposed line, said: “It’s unnerving to see that work is taking place before planning permission has been given. They are cutting down something they said would be preserved.”
The original application included plans to improve wildlife habitats in the Blyth Valley - a commitment Mrs Montague’s husband, Phil, says has not been met. He added: “SRT has felled a substantial area of woodland on this land and destroyed an area of previously undisturbed flora and fauna, which had been slowly reclaiming this area over the eight decades since the railway closure.”
The initial proposal also generated disapproval from the parish council, which objected to a heritage centre being built on a flood plain and an anticipated increase in traffic. Councillor Ann Edwards said a letter had been sent to Suffolk Coastal expressing concern that the work already done could prejudice any environmental impact assessment. “We believe that whatever work is done, is likely to interfere with wildlife,” she said. “They are not acting unlawfully but it certainly doesn’t help get the village onside.”
A spokesman for Suffolk Coastal said: “After being made aware of local concerns, an officer visited the site and found the removal of either dead or dying elm and the cutting back of brambles and mature willow.
“The officer concluded that none of the work was unlawful.”