Blow fails to dampen rail buffs optimism

Train enthusiasts remained optimistic despite being dealt a blow by parish councillors who have recommended their plans to build a line in north Suffolk be refused.

Train enthusiasts remained optimistic yesterday despite being dealt a blow by parish councillors who have recommended their plans to build a line in north Suffolk be refused.

Wangford with Henham Parish Council indicated that it believes plans to build a narrow gauge line between Southwold and Henham should hit the buffers at a planning meeting on Thursday night.

Earlier this week members of the Southwold Railway Trust came face to face with more than 300 people, many of them protesters, at a public meeting at Reydon.

Feelings have been running high since the planning application for the first phase of the trust's project to replicate the original Southwold Railway, which ran between the seaside town and Halesworth from 1879 to 1929, was submitted to Waveney District Council.

But John Bennett, from the trust, said it continued to have faith in the scheme.

"We never thought this was going to be easy, but we would not be proposing the project if we did not think it would be a good idea," he said.

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"People are entitled to make their own views felt, but we do have a lot of support for the scheme."

Mr Bennett said he was somewhat surprised that the parish council had recommended refusal of the plans before attending a public meeting which is to be held in Wangford next Thursday where the railway society will give a presentation.

"They could have held off making the decision until after the meeting next week. It seems a bit odd," he said.

The original route of the railway saw the track run along the Blyth Valley and into Southwold across the River Blyth from Walberswick, but the latest ideas see a new route being proposed.

As the first phase of the project the trust members have submitted a planning application that would see a park-and- ride facility at Henham Park beside the A12 and the track running under the trunk road and through the outskirts of Wangford and Reydon before terminating at Southwold Station at Easton Bavents.

The scheme has come under fire from landowners and local residents.

Charlotte Du Cann has organised a Save Our Lanes campaign and believes the "natural harmony" of the area will be shattered if the project goes ahead. "A whole peaceful network of back lanes in Reydon is under threat by developers," she said.

The plans have been backed by Henham estate's Hektor Rous but are being opposed by members of Southwold Town Council.

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