Protests held over rail link revival
MORE than 200 people protested in Southwold last night against proposals to revive the town's historic rail link to Halesworth.The placard-waving protesters chanted “no, no, no” as town councillors arrived to discuss the issue at their monthly policy and finance committee meeting.
By David Lennard
MORE than 200 people protested in Southwold last night against proposals to revive the town's historic rail link to Halesworth.
The placard-waving protesters chanted “no, no, no” as town councillors arrived to discuss the issue at their monthly policy and finance committee meeting.
It was not only Southwold residents who had gathered in the Market Place outside Southwold Town Hall - as they were joined by people living in the Blyth Valley villages along the proposed route.
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The placards contained slogans such as “No blight to Blythburgh” and “Don't wreck Reydon” but although noisy at times the protest was friendly throughout.
Geoffrey Munn, one of the protest organisers, said: “There are at least 200 people here tonight who all want to make a stand against this proposed railway.”
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Southwold Railway Society's proposal to revive the historic narrow gauge rail link to Halesworth, that operated for 50 years up until 1929, has caused controversy since it was first announced earlier this year.
David Negus, a member of the society, said he could understand people's concerns but said the railway would not be as destructive to the environment and local wildlife as was feared.
“Many heritage railways in other parts of the country exist in wildlife conservation areas and there is no reason why the same cannot happen here,” he said.
As many members of the public as possible crowded into the town hall to hear councillors discuss the proposed railway.
Committee chairman Michael Ladd said it had been a long time since so many members of the public had attended one of its meeting.
Southwold Mayor Susan Allen said there had been 335 letters sent to the town council by people opposing the proposed railway.
Of these 198 were from people living in Suffolk. There had been 47 letters of objection from Reydon residents and 16 from people living in nearby Blythburgh and Wenhaston.
There were also 47 letters of objections from people living outside Suffolk including two from the United States.
Eight people had written to the town council supporting plans for the railway society proposals.
Former mayor John Miller was one of a number of councillors who spoke against the railway society proposals.
He said that an important question that had to be asked was whether the railway society plans would make the Southwold area a better place for residents and visitors and clearly felt they would not.
“I am against these proposals as there is a great danger of Southwold becoming a theme park. Southwold does not need it,” he said.
Town councillors decided not to support the railway society's proposals to revive the railway.
Following a proposition from John Winter eight councillors voted against the railway society's plans with one abstention and one councillor voting against the proposition.
After the meeting Mr Munn and other protesters were delighted with the outcome.
“I think everyone has had a fair hearing and I believe town councillors are right not to support this scheme.
“It would be an environmental disaster for the Blyth Valley and also disastrous for Southwold. We have an unspoilt town here that so many people love and we should keep it that way,” he said.
Members of the railway society have said they will wait until the New Year before deciding whether to proceed with their plan and submit a planning application.
Society chairman John Bennett has promised that they will not proceed with the £6.5 million project if there is widespread public opinion against it.