Villagers object to council plans for developing visitor car park

Whelnetham Parish Council has submitted plans to turn an area of grassland near a nature reserve into a car park for 8 cars. Many residents have objected.
Whelnetham Parish Council has submitted plans to turn an area of grassland near a nature reserve into a car park for 8 cars. Many residents have objected.
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Plans to develop a car park near a popular beauty spot in Little Whelnetham have come under fire from residents.

Whelnetham Parish Council has proposed building a visitor car park with eight spaces at the northern end of Whelnetham Railway Walk.

It says a car park would allow families with small children and people with restricted mobility to more easily visit the railway line, and a community orchard it plans to plant later this year.

But villagers have raised a number of objections, including safety concerns about access from a busy road, destruction of habitat and fears it will attract litter and anti-social behaviour.

In her objection, Lorna Russell said: “This is a beautiful, important site as it is. Please don’t let it be ruined.”

“Encroaching on this beautiful place to make room for cars would be a desecration,” said Matthew Attwood, adding that drivers’ access to the railway line was ‘already more than adequate’.

He said a car park at the opposite end of the walk was ‘never fully occupied’ and there was ‘extensive’ car parking at the Rushbrooke Arms pub, as well as in laybys and verges in the village.

Chris Thomson, chairman of the parish council, said it was disappointing the plans had attracted so many objections, particularly in relation to the safety of the road as a traffic survey was carried out before they were submitted.

He said: “It costs a lot of money to maintain the railway line and we wanted to make sure that everyone in the parish, because everyone’s paying for it, has access to it.”

“It’s disappointing that people think they know more then the Highways Agency,” he added.

The southern part of the railway walk is a designated County Wildlife Site (CWS) due to its species-rich grassland and scrub mosaic habitat.

And while Suffolk Wildlife Trust has no objection to the principle of the proposed development, it has suggested a number of amendments to the scheme, including a reduction in the number of car parking spaces to ‘allow the retention of a greater area of existing semi-natural habitat’.

Cllr Thomson said the parish council ‘would be willing’ to look at the suggested amendments when it meets next month, with a view to finding ‘a resolution everyone is happy with’.

Complaints have also been made about inadequate consultation over the development, which could cost up to £5,000.

But Mr Thomson said the council made dozens of decision every year in its meetings which are open to the public, the minutes from which are published on its website.