Wenhaston: Villagers fight heritage railway plans

CAMPAIGNING villagers are hoping to put the brakes on a proposal to build a heritage railway site along a stretch of Suffolk countryside.

A battle to derail the bid by the Southwold Railway Trust to bring a half-mile steam line to Wenhaston, is being fought, with claims the development would have a negative impact on the surrounding environment.

Villagers argue the proposed site, which is similar in model to the Mid Suffolk Light Railway, has been unwisely located on a flood plain and would encourage heavy visitor traffic.

But the trust has defended its plan, saying it would address concerns and that it wanted to “work with the village, rather than against it”.

The Montague family lives at the east end of the line and has witnessed flooding in the area through which a single steam engine and coach would run. Phil Montague said: “Wildlife will be constantly disrupted, after remaining undisturbed for 80 years.

“Unlike in Leiston, where they are restoring a locomotive, this plan lacks historic significance, and though there may be little visual impact, we will get smoke and noise throughout the day.”

Ann Edwards, parish councillor, said an earlier plan to build closer to the A12 on brownfield land would have received fewer objections, adding: “It was originally going to be only a railway and not this huge theme park. I think the trust has been surprised by the level of hostility.”

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Eddie Metcalfe, of Blyford Lane, feared the site would draw hundreds of vehicles daily, adding: “The village has narrow roads on which people already walk and cycle. It makes it more dangerous whichever direction traffic comes from.”

Trains last operated there more than 80 years ago and, since 1994, the trust has explored reopening the line.

The trust’s plans include rebuilding the old station and creating a wildlife and visitor centre, featuring a cafe and museum. Publicity officer the Rev Simon Pitcher said: “It’s important to understand the scale of things. This is not something that will be open all year and we hope traffic can be directed at Blyford and not through the village.

“We don’t think the project will be seen by most of the village and neither do we think it will be heard.

“Flooding is part of a submission by qualified engineers in the planning application. Part of the wildlife management is to provide lagoons which we believe will protect the site and enable us to create more habitats.

“We hope to work with the village, rather than against it.”

Suffolk Coastal planners confirmed a site visit this week, before considering the bid, at the earliest next month.