Wildlife trust opposes rail revival plan

By David GreenDRIVING a railway line through a wildlife-rich reedbed was “utterly inconceivable”, a conservation group claimed as it condemned a plan to revive a former railway.

By David Green

DRIVING a railway line through a wildlife-rich reedbed was “utterly inconceivable”, a conservation group claimed as it condemned a plan to revive a former railway.

Suffolk Wildlife Trust said the £6.5million project for a narrow gauge railway between Halesworth and Southwold was not compatible with the aims of conservation.

Its main area of concern is the Hen Reedbeds, created three years ago at a cost of £650,000 and now supporting the rare bittern as well as marsh harriers, bearded tits and other uncommon species of wildlife.

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The proposed route of the railway cuts through the edge of the reedbed, but the whole of the Blyth Valley east of Blythburgh is important for its surviving grazing marshes and some other wide expanses of reedbed, a nationally -dwindling habitat.

On the Walberswick side of the estuary - where the old railway used to run - is a National Nature Reserve managed by English Nature and used by the rare bittern and other endangered wildlife.

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Suffolk Wildlife Trust director, Julian Roughton, said engineering works through the Hen Reedbeds would be detrimental and the rail line would further fragment the habitat and cause significant damage.

“It is an utterly inconceivable proposal. I cannot foresee any circumstances in which we would agree to it,” he added.

Mr Roughton said the trust has received numerous letters and phone calls from people with concerns about the project.

Its views had now been communicated to the Southwold Railway Society, the group behind the proposal to revive the line.

RSPB spokesman, Chris Durdin, said it was in favour of “green” forms of transport that reduced car use, but the plan for the railway would have to be examined carefully.

“We would need to consider the disturbance factor and the risk of sparks from the engines causing fires on heathland and reedbed areas alongside the line,” he added.

Southwold Railway Society chairman, John Bennett, said he was not surprised by the Suffolk Wildlife Trust's comments because it had been coming under a lot of pressure from protesters.

“As for disturbance caused by engineering works, there would be less involved than when the trust brought in diggers three years ago to create the nature reserve,” he added.

Mr Bennett said he did not believe the passing of up eight trains a day along a 240-metre stretch of the reedbed would pose a significant disturbance and pointed out the main road between the A12 and Southwold already dissected the reedbed on the northern side.


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