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Fire-damaged rail station harming image and character of town

PUBLISHED: 05:30 14 July 2019

Drone footage of Saxmundham railway station fire Picture: SKYMANIX

Drone footage of Saxmundham railway station fire Picture: SKYMANIX

Archant

Community leaders are urging rail chiefs to join them in drawing up a plan for the future of their railway station following a devastating fire which left it in a "truly appalling condition".

Firefighters tackle the blaze at Saxmundham railway station Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNFirefighters tackle the blaze at Saxmundham railway station Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Saxmundham Town Council chairman Jeremy Smith said there was growing anger at the lack of action to repair the Victorian station following the blaze 17 months ago.

He has written to Jamie Burles, managing director of Abellio Greater Anglia, and Andy Haines, chief executive officer of Network Rail, to point out the town council's concerns.

While he had criticised the rail authorities, he has held out an olive branch - and hopes they will join a partnership with the council to draw up a strategy for the regeneration of the East Suffolk Line station and its immediate surrounds, which could lead to wider social, environmental and economic benefits.

District council plans highlight the opportunity provided by the redevelopment/regeneration of the rail station area, while residents support a comprehensive redevelopment of the whole station area, including the town council's offices.

Firefighters tackle the blaze at Saxmundham railway station Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWNFirefighters tackle the blaze at Saxmundham railway station Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Mr Smith said "For the last 17 months, the station has remained in a truly appalling condition, which is the subject of universal dismay and growing anger that - to date - there has been no progress shown in restoring the building, if not to its former glory, then at least to a good functional and attractive state.

"It is frankly damaging to the image and character of our town, and we feel brings discredit to those who hold the responsibility and obligations of ownership of

what should be a public-serving asset."

He said that in a meeting held in November 2018 officers of Abellio Greater Anglia stated that re-building work - though not full restoration of the old building - was expected to start before the end of March.

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The mid-19th century heritage building was severely damaged in the fire in February 2018. While it had been vacant for several years it was on the threshhold of a new future with an Arts Station community arts project having just started and fundraising and talks taking place over its future expansion.

Train operator Greater Anglia has said it intends to restore the station as a one-storey building, which would incorporate a waiting room for passengers. It would also carry out repairs to the station's canopy and supports.

A spokesman for Greater Anglia said last month: "We are working with the planning authority on plans for Saxmundham station. We hope to carry out improvements including a new waiting room, repair works to both platforms and resurfacing the car park."

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