Miniature train owners' delight at public support over seawall fears

The owners of a long-established family seaside attraction have expressed their thanks for a wave of public support amid fears it could be lost.

Tuesday, 18th May 2021, 2:39 pm
Updated Thursday, 20th May 2021, 1:10 pm

The family behind St Annes Miniature Railway took to social media to vent its concerns and rally backing after being left with the impression from a meeting of stakeholders over possible new sea defences for the area that the land the line currently occupies might no longer be available after the work.

Following the recent successful completion of the sea defence works along the coastline between Lytham and Fairhaven Lake, Fylde Council has obtained funding from the Environment Agency to develop a feasibility study to investigate various options for improving coastal erosion and flood risk management at Pleasure Island, St Annes.

The feasibility study went out to public consultation last week and the council has said that a number of alternative options are currently being considered, depending on input and feedback from stakeholders including residents, and businesses.

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The late Harry Leeming driving the miniature train on St Annes seafront

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National award for Fairhaven sea defences

Following that assessment, a preferred solution will be identified which is likely to obtain approval for Government funding.

Subject to approval of the feasibility report, completion of the detailed design and obtaining all necessary consents, licences and approvals, site works could start in spring next year

But Helen Leeming, the owner of the miniature railway, whose father in law Harry drove the train for 20 years up to 2001, says she was shocked to hear at a stakeholders meeting of an apparent 'preferred option' which she fears could spell the end of the railway.

"We were told that there is a preferred proposal to accommodate the new sea defences by moving the beach huts back by taking a little land of the miniature golf course and that would mean no room for us.," said Helen.

"We were horrified and felt it was important for the public to know. The response since has been amazing, with more than 2,700 signatures on an online petition. It shows how much people love the miniature train."

Coun Roger Small, chairman of Fylde Council's operational management committee, said: “We are very happy to see this project proceed as it is designed to give flooding protection for the next 100 years as well as providing an enhanced tourist experience.

"We are well aware of the potential impact on some nearby businesses and we are listening to concerns and will try to address them to the best of our abilities with the final designs.

"There will be disruptions due to the huge scale of the works, the machinery involved and the need for health and safety during construction, but the team will aim to minimise these.

"We are also keenly aware of ours being a traditional high-quality family resort with time honoured attractions. We shall endeavour to preserve what’s best whilst at the same time looking for opportunities that enhance the area.”

The consultation inbox was closed on Monday after the volume of emails over the weekend, but Coun Small said it was a temporary measure while those received are sifted through and it would be reopened as soon as possible.

St Annes beach huts co-owner Stuart Robertson. said: "I can see why Helen is worried but I am sure the matter will be fully looked at and everything possible done to preserve all St Annes' great attractions."

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