Rail line controversy to be reignited

By David LennardA FRESH plan could be drawn up to revive the historic rail link between Southwold and Halesworth, reigniting the controversy over the £6.

By David Lennard

A FRESH plan could be drawn up to revive the historic rail link between Southwold and Halesworth, reigniting the controversy over the £6.5million proposal.

Southwold Railway Society's plan to once again link the two market towns with an 8.5-mile narrow gauge railway line has sharply divided public opinion since the draft proposal was announced in the summer.

Train enthusiasts welcomed the opportunity of having a heritage railway running through the Blyth Valley for the first time since 1929, but there was plenty of opposition from residents, landowners and environmentalists.

The East Anglian Daily Times held a ballot on the issue last month to gauge the public mood and readers voted two to one against the scheme.

Railway society chairman, John Bennett, has now revealed it was likely that a second phase of the plan would be produced. Among the possible alterations to the original proposal are:

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n re-routing the track so it skirts round the edge of the Hen Reedbeds at Reydon. There is also the possibility of creating an opportunity to enlarge the reedbeds and to protect them from salt water by a clay core in the formation, while the track could also avoid the hen reedbeds completely.

n moving the park-and-ride facility, originally planned for Blythburgh, but not well-received in the village, to Spring Hill on the edge of the Henham Estate where it would be surrounded by woodland and be better positioned for the A12 and A145.

n moving the Southwold Pier Station further away from the model yacht pond so it does not interfere with regattas and other events.

"We have had a lot of positive comments on our proposals. There have also been those against the plans, but in the main the comments have been extremely positive," said Mr Bennett.

"Various possible alterations have emerged so far from the consultations and it is likely that a second phase of the plans will be produced."

Writing in the latest newsletter of the society – which has seen a record number of people joining over the past weeks and whose membership is now in the region of 200 – Mr Bennett said he hoped a decision on whether to make a formal planning application for the line would be made in the New Year.

"It is very flattering that it is thought that we can actually achieve it. It is, of course, an enormous undertaking and nothing will be easy even if we have support," he added.

"But by the next newsletter it should be clearer whether we go on or turn our attention to other less ambitious projects."

However, opponents of the scheme in the Blyth Valley, including a group of more than 20 landowners, have pledged to fight any formal application.

david.lennard@eadt.co.uk

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