Wenhaston: Railway proposal set for a second attempt

A commemorative sign marks the site of the former Wenhaston station on the Southwold to Halesworth r

A commemorative sign marks the site of the former Wenhaston station on the Southwold to Halesworth railway in the Blyth Valley

PROPOSALS to build a heritage railway on a stretch of Suffolk countryside are back on track just four months after hitting the buffers.

Preservation group, the Southwold Railway Trust (SRT) is relaunching its bid to bring a steam line to Wenhaston despite district planners throwing out the original application in December.

Campaigners opposed to the project have vowed to fight the resubmission, which developers say is of significantly smaller scale than the one refused planning permission by Suffolk Coastal’s development committee.

The original proposal generated disapproval from the parish council and a number of villagers who objected to a heritage centre being built on a flood plain and the anticipated increase in traffic.

Since its formation almost 20 years ago, the SRT has explored the prospect of reopening the old three-foot gauge line between Halesworth and Southwold.

The proposed stretch of track at Wenhaston, which stopped running in 1929, would run along the Blyth Valley from a buffer stop near a replica of Wenhaston station to a locomotive shed.

The new application is for a shorter track than the half-mile stretch originally planned and does not include a previously proposed station master’s flat.

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Sarah Montague’s family has lived at the east end of the line for 17 years. She said: “This proposal is on a smaller scale, with a shorter track and no permanent residence. However, all of our objections are still very strongly felt.

“They now want to bus some visitors in to reduce car parking but people will still drive and coaches will make access horrendous.”

Last December, planning officers reported that traffic through the village would increase by less than 5% and that noise from slow-moving trains and occasional whistles would not be a nuisance. But the application was still refused, due to a “potentially adverse impact on the character of an area of outstanding natural beauty”.

Suffolk Coastal District Council said the application is yet to be officially made but that planners are expecting it to be submitted in the near future.

The SRT was unavailable for comment but has previously declared that it had taken on board the views of planners and of residents and intended to submit revised and simplified proposals for the site.

The redesigned project is said to be smaller in size and accessed by coach as a stop on a tour of sites on the old Halesworth to Southwold line.

At an exhibition of plans in the village last weekend, the SRT said it would operate 30 steam days a year and only during the week.

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