Southwold protest at rail plans
A NORTH Suffolk seaside town known the world all over for its tranquillity and gentleness is preparing for an unusual event - a protest rally.Southwold attracts visitors who enjoy the beauty of the resort that includes its historic buildings, lovely greens, magnificent promenade and beach, harbour and recently renovated pier.
By David Lennard
A NORTH Suffolk seaside town known the world all over for its tranquillity and gentleness is preparing for an unusual event - a protest rally.
Southwold attracts visitors who enjoy the beauty of the resort that includes its historic buildings, lovely greens, magnificent promenade and beach, harbour and recently renovated pier.
The town has made the headlines when one of its sought-after beach huts goes on sale for anything up to £40,000 but it is the possible revival of the rail link to Halesworth that has now got everyone talking.
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The Southwold Railway Society has announced plans to revive the 3ft narrow gauge railway that operated from 1879 to 1929.
The £6.5 million plan for the heritage railway that would see steam trains taking passengers through the Blyth Valley is not without its supporters.
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A consultation document produced by the society asks for comments from the public and so far there has been an overwhelming majority in favour of the development.
However, a growing campaign of residents who believe the local environment of the Blyth Valley and the character of the area are under threat from the scheme.
More than 1,500 leaflets highlighting the reasons the proposal should be rejected have been delivered to local homes.
Scores of protest letters have been received at Southwold Town Hall as town councillors prepare to debate the issue next Tuesday evening.
Councillors attending their regular monthly meeting are likely to be lobbied by campaigners opposed to the railway.
A protest rally is being held outside the town hall to coincide with councillors arriving for the meeting.
"I am sure that people feel they want to let their elected representatives know just how strong they feel on this issue," said Caroline Munn, one of 20 local residents who signed an open letter opposing the proposed railway.
Under proposals announced by the railway society Blythburgh would have two stations, an oil depot and a park and ride facility for up to 200 vehicles along with a new restaurant.
The track would also pass close to the historic All Saints Church in the village that is recognised as one of the most impressive religious buildings in the region and known as the "cathedral of the marshes".
Peter Bennett, from Blythburgh, said: "Blythburgh residents have every right to be concerned about these proposals and I believe there will be people from the village supporting the protest rally."
Southwold Railway Society members have invited public consultation before any official planning application is put forward.
The scheme has already received the backing of Halesworth Town Council and councillors at Southwold will be asked their opinions.
Society president John Bennett has said: "If there is public support for the project then it can probably be achieved.
"If there is not then we would not want to pursue it," he said.
The railway society are likely to wait until the New Year when more people will have had a chance to respond to the proposal before deciding whether to proceed.