Blyth Road Works
Blyth Road Works

The Trust’s Application for Planning Permission to build a workshop open to the public at Blyth Road Southwold was approved on Tuesday May 17th, by Waveney District Council. There are, however, a number of quite onerous conditions, which are to be expected within an AONB – and some confusion about ownership and use of the access roadway, which will have to be resolved.   (You can see the details – and the conditions – on Waveney District Council’s website, under the May 17 date).  However, this success, though small in respect of the entire railway, is the largest scheme for which the Trust has received approval, since the time when contamination of land scuppered a broadly similar scheme, close by, which was approved several years ago. This achievement is entirely down to the hard work of the previous Chairman, John Bennett, who conceived this plan and saw it through.
The scheme provides a multi-purpose traditional-looking building with two internal three-foot-gauge tracks, giving enough space to keep all our stock under cover and secure. A workshop is incorporated. When some of the stock is out, then displays about the SR will be accessible, as will the rest of the stock – mainly the Heritage Train – on which we are working. A small yard with demonstration tracks and sidings is included, allowing short passenger journeys in the fullness of time. There is a shop and a café, to cater to the many walkers that already pass the site. Much of the land is taken up by a nature reserve, viewed from a 7¼” railway circuit, which forms part of the entertainment.
The site is directly adjacent to the original SR trackbed, which leads west to the river, and east to the site of Southwold Station.
The only large obstacle, now, is the need to buy the land – which, as can be imagined in Southwold – is not by any means cheap. Much of the cash we gained by selling the surplus land at Wenhaston has been absorbed by necessary works there, such as boundary fencing (which is being done now) and the new access road (which we are working on this Saturday). So most of the Blyth Road land purchase – and of course the costs for development of the site itself – will have to be found from Members and supporters, either in the (ideal) form of gifts to the charity, or loans, or even perhaps shares (a possibility to be discussed at the next Board meeting in a week’s time). Meanwhile, any donations, large or small, marked for Blyth Road Works (we may think of a catchier name!) will be very welcome indeed. The land and set-up costs are together likely to be in the region of £175,000 (not including the Heritage Train and steam locomotive!).
We hope that this success is a harbinger of a positive future for the Trust:   however, even in itself, it will absorb much of our effort (though Wenhaston will not be neglected) over the next few years. The first step to make it viable is to double our Membership – most enthusiasts can afford 29p per week, which is all it costs – please consider joining us and “making it happen”.