Southwold train trust’s plans for Wenhaston station

A STRETCH of railway that last saw trains running more than 80 years ago could be brought back to life under plans drawn up by a group of enthusiasts.

The Southwold Railway Trust has tabled a planning application with Suffolk Coastal District Council for land in Blyford Lane, Wenhaston.

Its members are hoping to reinstate a half-mile stretch of track in the direction of Blythburgh.

Since 1994, the trust has been exploring whether the Victorian Southwold-Halesworth 3ft gauge branch line, via Wenhaston, Blythburgh and Walberswick, could be reopened.

In 2007, it submitted a plan for a slightly revised version of the entire original route which operated between 1879 to 1929 and closed because of stiff competition from buses.

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But the scheme ran into the buffers after being rejected by Waveney District Council.

The trust's new plans would include rebuilding the old Wenhaston station and constructing a visitor centre, which could feature a cafe and museum.

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However, some villagers have expressed concerns about the plans – expressing concerns about the potential impact on the surrounding countryside.

As a result, the parish council is holding a public meeting at the village hall at 7.30pm on Thursday to allow people to air their views.

A representative from the Southwold Railway Trust will also be on hand to answer any questions.

The group's publicity officer, the Rev Simon Pitcher, said they hoped it would be a chance to allay people's fears. 'It is only a small scale project,' he said. 'Alongside the track we will create a linear nature reserve to enhance the environment for the benefit of the wildlife. There will then be a footpath alongside the railway line where people can walk.

'The railway here was quite unique – it was built to a smaller scale than the normal railway. The top speed was only 15mph and that's what we would re-create. It also wouldn't be open all the time. It would be an occasional thing on a similar model to the Mid Suffolk Light Railway. It's not going to be 365 days a year.'

Mr Pitcher, who is the rector of Southwold, said they planned to run one steam engine and coach along the track.

'We hope it will a positive benefit for the community and part of the plan is that it might offer an opportunity to teach apprenticeship engineering skills,' he said. 'There should be educational benefits for all schoolchildren. It won't just be for railway enthusiasts.'

Lillian Spindler, chairman of Wenhaston with Mells Hamlet Parish Council, said members had not yet discussed the application but realised some villagers might object and encouraged people to attend the meeting to learn more.

Villager Robert Montague said the proposed site was 'totally unsuited' to such a project.

'The natural peace and beauty of grazing marshes are increasingly rare and constantly under threat,' he said.

'Suffolk needs to cherish and protect these, rather than to lose them to developers.'

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