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Disused rail lines may be protected, Norfolk County Council says

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Disused railway lines across Norfolk should be protected so they can be brought back into use in the future, the county council has said.

The authority wants to investigate the possibility that the network of abandoned lines, many of which were closed in the 1960s, could become ‘greenways’ – for use as walking and cycling routes – or even see the return of trains.

The strategy is outlined in the council’s latest local transport plan (LTP).

Hunstanton railway station, Turnstone. (57141805)
Hunstanton railway station, Turnstone. (57141805)

Parts of several former Norfolk railway lines – many of which fell victim to the Beeching Cuts – have already been converted into footpaths and cycle routes, such as the Marriott’s Way, Weavers’ Way and Lakenham Way.

Others such as the rail line between Lynn and Hunstanton has been built over in places.

But there are other stretches – particularly in rural areas – which the council believes should be protected from development, to allow them to eventually be revived for transport use.

The LTP does not have the power to stop developers building on the routes, but the council hopes that by including the possibility of greenways and even future rail use in the plan, it could help to deter them and keep the options open.

Hunstanton rail link; last train. (57141802)
Hunstanton rail link; last train. (57141802)

Andrew Proctor, leader of Norfolk County Council, said: “The plan can indicate support for using lines as corridors for greenways and active travel in the short term.

“An act that would allow, if it were considered to be appropriate, other such uses, such as rail to come forward in the long term.”

The LTP sets out the council’s vision for improving transport between now and 2036 and is intended to encourage walking, cycling, bus and rail use as well as deliver major projects like the Western Link and Long Stratton bypass.

The plan was agreed at a meeting of Norfolk County Council’s cabinet on Monday, and will now need to be signed off by the full council.

Mr Proctor said : “It’s not just about building roads but to encourage switching to active travel and public transport and achieving a switch to clean fuels.”

However, he said that many journeys in Norfolk are too long for walking and cycling and public transport is not a viable option in many rural areas, particularly for those with disabilities.

The LTP has been controversial, particularly among green groups.

Earlier this year law firm Leigh Day wrote to County Hall warning that Andrew Boswell, a former Green county and city councillor, is on the brink of seeking a judicial review of the LTP.

Mr Boswell argued the plan contains no quantification and assessment of the carbon emissions it would give rise to – or how to reduce them.

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