Fight to save St Anne’s historic miniature railway as controversual sea wall consultation re-opens

The cherished St. Anne’s Express dates back to 1956 and is the last operational truly ‘seaside’ Miniature Railway on the Fylde Coast with direct views of the sea

Stan operating "Harry's Dream" at St Anne's miniature railway

Stan operating “Harry’s Dream” at St Anne’s miniature railway (Image: Esther Parkinson)

Fylde Council has re-opened its consultation about replacing the existing sea wall around The Island, St Anne’s which could throw the future of a much-loved attraction into jeopardy.

The authority has been looking at options and garnering public opinion about the sea defence that protects over 400 properties and businesses from coastal erosion and flooding.

The structure is almost 90 years old and approaching the end of its life expecting to last at most only another ten years.

Flooding in the area is set to increase in line with climate change predictions and its low height in comparison to the beach means overtopping and flooding regularly occurs.

Flooding over the sea wall at St Annres Lytham

Flooding over the sea wall at St Annres Lytham (Image: Fylde Council)

A new sea defence with an additional height of 2m with 1m high set back wall has been proposed which will alter the character of the existing frontage and will be a challenge to integrate into the Island site.

An overall vision for the Island Site and St Anne’s Town Centre is being developed however due to the real risk of flooding and structural failure the council are looking at a solution for now.

The Environment Agency (EA) is prepared to make further funds available to develop a sea wall replacement scheme which Fylde Council has said it is now in a position to contribute towards however may not be able to in the future.

After consultations with stakeholders it was agreed that a buff-coloured stepped revetment would be the best option for its efficacy similar to the new sea defence at Fairhaven and Granny’s Bay.

Erosion of current sea wall at The Island, St Anne’s (Image: Fylde Council)

To accommodate the extra height however, the new defence will have to extend out to sea meaning it will be impossible to re-instate the existing amenities on the landward side which includes beach huts, golf course and miniature railway.

After further meetings with stakeholders, other more expensive options were discussed along with choices that may detrimentally affect marine life.

Out of eight options the one that was recommended was to build out towards the sea 7m from the toe of the existing sea defence which would be deemed acceptable by environmental groups and would be affordable and likely to get approved.

The proposal would mean the beach huts and the golf course are displaced but reinstated however the miniature railway could not be retained in its current form.

This has sparked a heated debate and when the Public Consultation information on the preferred option was published on Friday, May 14 ,it had to be closed again on Monday, May 17, due to an overwhelming response.

The council and stakeholders have continued to discuss how to come up with a compromise and the consultation has now been relaunched with comments needed by June 9.

Throughout this local people, and visitors, have got to work in order to save the mini train and a Facebook group, created only two weeks ago under ‘Save St Anne’s Railway!’ has gained over 2000 members .

Stan operating "Harry's Dream" at St Anne's miniature railway

Stan operating “Harry’s Dream” at St Anne’s miniature railway (Image: Esther Parkinson)

The cherished St. Anne’s Express dates all the way back to 1956 and is the last operational truly ‘seaside’ Miniature Railway on the Fylde Coast with direct views of the sea.

It is nicknamed “Harry’s Dream” as when the business was bought in 1981, along with the blue “St Anne’s Express” engine, Harry’s dream was to own a second engine.

Although he passed before his son could fulfil this, the new engine was named in his honour.

Still owned by the Leeming family, its current owners were told of the preferred “no railway” option with a month’s notice around two weeks ago.

They have since been assured that the railway is in the authority’s preferred considerations however still feel that no concrete solution has been offered.

Various measurements of train, track and tunnels have been submitted by the owner’s for the council to consider to come up with a solution.

Since then the public have offered their overwhelming support of the historic attraction at the traditional Victorian Seaside resort with around 150 people turning out to a protest a week ago.

Pupils at St Anne’s Grammar College also came out in their numbers to support the cause.

Stuart Mann on the St Anne's Express in 1977

Stuart Mann on the St Anne’s Express in 1977 (Image: Stuart Mann)

Many generations have taken their children and grandchildren to see the locomotive which provides as much joy to those who see it as to those who ride it.

Fylde resident Stuart Mann used to visit regularly in the 1970s and said: “The miniature steam train has always been special to me and my kids love it too.

“I really do hope they can save it because without it, and the pitch and putt, and the trampolines, the seafront will lose some of its soul and history.”

Fellow supporter, Esther Parkinson from St Anne’s said: “I live in St Anne’s and have been living on the Fylde Coast for most of my life.

“The train has been an iconic part of St Anne’s for many, many years and given so much enjoyment to families and their young children.

“The Facebook campaign has gained traction very quickly which is great news for the cause.

Stuart Mann with his daughter almost over 40 years later in 2017 at St Anne's Miniature railway

Stuart Mann with his daughter almost over 40 years later in 2017 at St Anne’s Miniature railway (Image: Stuart Mann)

“I was out walking the other day and was passing the railway and thought I’d wish everyone concerned the best of luck with the future of the train!”

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