Fresh attempt to derail rail line plan
By David LennardRAILWAY society members are being urged to distance themselves from a controversial plan to revive an historic line.Southwold Railway Society produced a consultation booklet in the summer outlining its plan to reinstate the 8.
By David Lennard
RAILWAY society members are being urged to distance themselves from a controversial plan to revive an historic line.
Southwold Railway Society produced a consultation booklet in the summer outlining its plan to reinstate the 8.5-mile line that operated between the town and Halesworth from 1879 to 1929.
But the £6.5million scheme sharply divided public opinion in the area and there have been strong objections to the proposals from a number of residents, landowners and other bodies including Suffolk Wildlife Trust, RSPB and the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings.
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A referendum on the issue, carried out by the East Anglian Daily Times, saw 959 voting against the scheme, with 500 people expressing support for the project.
Now a group of residents and landowners living in Southwold, Reydon, Blythburgh and Holton have urged railway society members to distance themselves from the controversial proposal to reinstate the narrow gauge line.
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In an open letter to railway society members, the group said: “This scheme will be fought and fought and fought. Our Blyth Valley communities will never be railroaded.
“But if this dismal battle goes on and on and on the good name of the Southwold Railway Society will be gravely tarnished. We urge members to distance themselves from this madness.”
The objectors who have signed the letter are Paul Bennett, from Blythburgh, Gill Booth, from Southwold, Penelope Bray, from Southwold, Katherine Hamilton, from Reydon, Kirsty Shand, from Holton, and John Veitch, from Southwold.
The group said they were disappointed that despite the objections about the scheme, the railway society has not dropped its plan.
They claimed many residents were “terrified” of the prospect of fencing, concrete, oil sumps and car parks “despoiling wildlife reserves and other precious stretches of unspoiled open land”.
Their letter continued: “The objection is not to a detail here or there, but to the whole scheme and to any amended scheme.”
Southwold Railway Society chairman, John Bennett, said no decision had been taken on whether to proceed with an application for planning permission for the line.
“We are still studying the responses to our consultation booklet, but these have been very encouraging,” he added.
“I also note that a website poll set up in Southwold has received more than 500 hits, with 62% in favour of the railway scheme going ahead.”
Mr Bennett said membership of Southwold Railway Society had increased since the proposal was first announced.