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Southwold railway plans gets go ahead

PUBLISHED: 08:59 20 February 2009 | UPDATED: 22:33 05 July 2010

EIGHTY years since the closure of the Southwold railway, a heritage group's plans to bring the glory days of steam travel back to the seaside town have been given the green light.

EIGHTY years since the closure of the Southwold railway, a heritage group's plans to bring the glory days of steam travel back to the seaside town have been given the green light.

The Southwold steam railway park, where a replica locomotive will offer trips around a loop of track running through landscaped gardens, is part of proposals for a £200,000 visitor attraction.

The ambitious scheme, which includes a museum, café and shop on the site of the Sole Bay Car Spares yard at the end of Blyth Road, was approved by Waveney District Council's development control committee on Wednesday night - but work can only start once the access has been improved.

John Windell, who spoke at the meeting on behalf of Southwold Town Council, said that the access route was a designated footpath and, although it was full of potholes, it should not be turned into a road.

Mr Windell said that any issues of contamination on the site needed to be resolved. “For 70 years, it was the town tip and who knows what rubbish was left there then. For the last 30 years it has been a breaker's yard and we are looking at battery acid, oil and brake fluid still there,” he said.

A narrow gauge railway started running between Southwold and Halesworth in 1879, but closed in 1929 when it could no longer compete with a new bus service. Sue Allen, district councillor for Southwold and Reydon, said: “The access problem is a real worry and until that is sorted out this is a difficult proposition, but I'm in favour of the whole idea.”

The scheme was approved with the conditions that the access road be upgraded and approved by the Highways Authority, that measures suggested by the Environment Agency to deal with potential contamination be put in place and that details of any steam whistles be agreed.

John Bennett, of the Southwold Railway Trust, said: “This park will celebrate the heyday of British steam engineering in an educational and entertaining manner. It will be a family visitor attraction based around a serious heritage project.”

He told the meeting that the Trust's members were prepared to underwrite the cost of surfacing Blyth Road to improve the access, although details of the project have yet to be arranged.

Trust members are already working on creating a replica Sharp Stewart locomotive - the type of train which would have been used on the old Southwold railway - to run in the park. Part of the existing shed on the site will be transformed into a workshop so that similar engineering projects can be carried out on site.

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