Rail plan would be nature

By David LennardOPPONENTS of a scheme to revive a railway link between Halesworth and Southwold have warned it would be an “environmental disaster” for the Blyth Valley.

By David Lennard

OPPONENTS of a scheme to revive a railway link between Halesworth and Southwold have warned it would be an “environmental disaster” for the Blyth Valley.

Southwold Railway Society has announced a £6.5million plan to revive the historic rail link between the two towns that ran from 1879 to 1929.

It has produced a brochure outlining the proposal and has won the backing of Halesworth Town Council.

But opponents of the scheme felt the town councillors were not aware of all the environmental issues that building a new railway line would create when they gave their support.

In Southwold, 1,500 leaflets have been sent to homes in the area outlining what the objectors regarded as a “real threat” to one of the most important areas of countryside in the country.

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“Sites at risk include Toby's Walks and the Hen Reedbeds, plus much-loved marshes between Mights Bridge and the sea on the north side of the Blyth,” said an open letter signed by 20 residents.

“We Southwold residents are lucky to share an exceptional area with the rarest wildlife including bitterns, marsh harriers, slow worms, otters and water voles.”

The objectors also believe a plan to install a level crossing on the only road into Southwold would lead to traffic chaos.

“Building the new railway will be highly disruptive and the intrusion will be permanent. Traffic will be delayed by a level crossing at Mights Bridge, causing particular congestion at peak holiday periods,” they said.

“Residents must decide whether to defend their historic and natural heritage or let developers change Southwold into a theme park.”

Scores of residents have sent letters objecting to the proposed railway to Southwold Town Council and town clerk Jenny Hursell said more were arriving every day.

One of the objectors is television personality Geoffrey Munn, who is a jewellery expert on the BBC1 programme Antiques Roadshow and has had a home in the Southwold area for more than 25 years.

“Alarmingly, the proposed train service will cross a number of important and highly sensitive wildlife sites. Some are nature reserves and some are Sites of Special Scientific Interest,” he said.

“The steam train's final station is by the pier, just where rare wild orchids grow now.

“The building of a railway with stations, an oil depot with centrifuge and filters for sump oil at Blythburgh, water towers, banks, cutaways and fencing would completely change the landscape of the Blyth Valley and must never be allowed.”

Mr Munn added lives could be put at risk if emergency vehicles, including ambulances, were delayed getting into Southwold because of the proposed level crossing close to Mights Bridge.

Steve Aylward, of the Suffolk Wildlife Trust, has written to the railway society expressing concerns for the Hen Reedbeds.

“It's importance lies in having an area of extended reed beds which birds such as the bittern and marsh harrier want,” he said.

Members of the Southwold Railway Society believe the revival of the line would bring benefits to both towns as well as the villages in between.

One of the plans is for a park-and-ride scheme beside the A12 at Blythburgh, designed to help ease traffic congestion in Southwold.

The society has not submitted any formal planning applications and chairman John Bennett said it would only proceed if the majority of public opinion supported the railway line's revival.


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