For the first time ever, members of the District Council, of the Parish Council, and our neighbours were united at today’s planning meeting in their support for the Southwold Railway Trust’s Charitable Aim – to restore the Southwold Railway.
The planning officer also expressed his support for our current planning application, and recommended approval.
However, as we expected, and not at all to our surprise, the District Council (at its very last gasp before the election dissolves it) turned down our application yet again (after a process which has lasted two years).
The Trust has ample grounds for an Appeal (and not only because the Committee chose to disagree with the recommendation of their own planning officer).
Undaunted by this expected reversal, the Trust will continue to manage and improve its land at Wenhaston in compliance with the law and Trust Aims – and, encouraged by the general support for its larger Aim, will vigorously pursue all options to achieve that end.
It is worth, at this stage (and in view of several statements made at the meeting by the opposition), clearing up any doubt – for our detractors – and our supporters!
• The Trust, a Charity registered in Southwold, owns part of the Blyth Valley in Wenhaston Parish, including about a quarter of a mile of original trackbed
• The land was offered for sale to the Trust by the landowner, and was paid for by a combination of gifts, loans and grant aid
• The land was sponsored for one purpose only – to provide a base for the restoration of the historic Southwold Railway – so it is the ethical duty of all Trustees and members to carry out that purpose
• The Trust has abandoned its 2012 plan to use the pastures for any purpose, and these are therefore offered for sale, to make the point that we have no designs on them. The trackbed and new station site are unaffected, and the linear SRT holding allows the Trust access to east and west for potential future extension in the Southwold or Halesworth direction
• The Trust has the same ability as any other landowner (in our case, also including the agreement of our agricultural tenants) to manage and improve its land
• Various legal restrictions are put on such work – such as the general interdiction of tree work (standing trees and large bushes) during the nesting season, March 1 to July 31: the Trust has always followed these guidelines to the letter, a fact attested to by both the police and the District Council
• The fact that the land is within an AONB produces further restrictions, according to the NPPF, which gives AONBs many of the protections of National Parks: thus, important (live) trees must not be damaged or cut down, and they have not been affected, even when they are in awkward
• SRT has always complied with these restrictions, and in fact has erred in the direction of over-compliance
• Work carried out so far at Wenhaston is as follows:
o Clearance of dead and fallen trees, mainly elm, some of which are left onsite to form a valuable wildlife resource, while others are logged
o Clearance of (mainly dead) bramble and ivy: some woven into wildlife refuges, others disposed of
o Levelling of rabbit warrens (mostly deserted), to provide a safe and level pathway
o Strimming of some nettles (though most are left in situ) to allow pathway access
o Repair and restoration of original SR features, such as typical boundary fencing, and the original driftway crossing and gates
o Repair and restoration of the causeway over the drainage waterways, including clearance and rodding of drains
o Marking of on-track chainage
• Work has been done to open up access, improve the ecological diversity, and improve and manage the site
• This work is not in connection with the actual planned restoration of the Southwold Railway, for which SRT has no planning permission.
Some, at least, of the work will have to be undone when the railway is rebuilt – for example, the fine tilth which has been produced especially for grass and woodland plants to grow along the trackbed would have to be removed, as would two or three trees. However, nothing done precludes the later restoration of the railway
• Come to our Show at St Edmund’s Hall, Southwold, this Saturday May 2nd or Sunday May 3rd, meet us, join us, and become part of this exciting project – which has just become more exciting!