On Friday March 11th, the Trust’s Appeal (to be allowed to start rebuilding the railway at Wenhaston) was dismissed. This did not come as a great surprise, given the breadth and power of the anti-railway lobby. We feel that it will prove to be a blessing in disguise. Here is the statement (as has gone to the press) from the Trust Chairman:
“The Trust is naturally disappointed by the recent decision of the Inspector to uphold the refusal of Suffolk Coastal District Council to allow the restoration of the historic Victorian branch line to start at Wenhaston. We do not agree with the conclusions, and may consider challenging them, as we feel insufficient weight was given to the fact that the SCDC’s own planning officer recommended approval, to the fact that the Environment Agency had no objection to the flooding mitigation plan, and to the importance of tourism to the economy of East Suffolk, and the project’s strategic place within that economy.
We are particularly sad that the sterling efforts of our many volunteers, who give their time unstintingly in all weathers to their chosen charity, have been seemingly set at naught by this decision. Our 374 members, and several thousand supporters, will feel that the “powers that be” are – for some unfathomable reason – against them.
However – the Trust is by no means daunted by this temporary setback: we have only been trying to rebuild the railway for a few years, while other heritage railways struggled in the same way for a lot longer: the Welsh Highland Railway, for example (which runs through the Snowdonia National Park, and suffered very similar opposition), took over fifty years from conception to completion, and a massive seventy-four years between closure and re-opening. It is now a much-loved and integral part of Gwynedd, and contributes several millions a year to the economy. Our proposal is modest – but then so were all the other 201 heritage railways in the UK, when they started.
It is the moral and legal duty of the Trust not to give up on our Charitable Aim – to restore the railway. This is particularly true at Wenhaston, where the land was bought for the Trust by sponsors for one purpose only – to rebuild the 1879 Wenhaston Station in its historic landscape context. Thus the Trust already has four achievable new plans in hand for our land – these will be publicised when appropriate. Volunteers will continue to steward the land: events, like the Open Weekend on June 18th and 19th will take place with renewed vigour, the (very onerous) conditions attached to the planning permission now being null and void. The Trust has a planning application in hand in Southwold, and continues with its efforts to buy or lease other parts of the (miraculously unencumbered) trackbed.
Most importantly, the Trust is utterly determined that the cause is just – and is fully confident that the Southwold Railway will join the local North Norfolk, Mid Suffolk, Bure Valley, and Mid Norfolk Railways as an asset to the lives of present and future generations.
James Hewett, Chairman”