CAMPAIGNERS have launched a fight to save Hayling’s picturesque seafront amid plans to build a railway depot.
Residents say plans to build a large shed to house locomotives would be a blot on the landscape.
But Bob Haddock, the proprietor of Hayling Island Seaside Railway, has said the popular attraction is ‘doomed’ unless it can find a new home.
The railway’s depot is currently next to Funlands Amusement Park, but staff are looking for a new home because the funfair has put its land forward for consideration for future development.
The preferred site for the depot is near Bound Lane.
The plan would be to demolish an existing toilet block and replace it with a building around 14 times larger.
As well as storing engines, the building would have toilet facilities and a heritage area.
But residents opposite the Coastguard Lookout, near Bound Lane, have formed an alliance and say it could become an eyesore.
Tony Rolfe, a retired building surveyor, who lives nearby, said: ‘If the railway – which after all is largely run by volunteers – went bust the local community would be left with an ugly, possibly half-completed eyesore that would blight a beautiful and scientifically important part of the Hayling seafront.
‘It’s a wholly unnecessary development in a totally inappropriate location.’
And residents have voiced concerns as the area is a haven for wildlife.
Gordon Shepherd, also a member of Coastguard Lookout Residents’ Group, said: ‘Three families who live nearby have spoken of regularly seeing bats around that part of the seafront – a species whose natural habitat has to be taken into account in all planning applications – and this is an area popular with dog walkers and families who picnic.
‘The idea of a huge railway depot with the noise and the smell of fuel is hardly conducive to recreation in this residential part of the seafront. We intend to fight these proposals every inch of the way.’
But Mr Haddock said it would have little impact on the scenic view.
He said: ‘I think they are quite entitled to their opinion.
‘We have to move our shed because of possible development at the funfair. Unless we get a new site, the railway is doomed.’
He said he was talking to environmental bodies about the plans.
The plans come as the railway celebrates its 10th anniversary this summer after moving from Mill Rythe.
Mr Haddock said: ‘Obviously it will be noticeable. But we are looking at the best way to alleviate all the problems.
‘On the outside of the building there would be several doors which we would paint.
‘The whole of the shed was going to be clad in wood.
‘It’s within 100 yards of two large buildings, the old lifeboat site and the current coastguard lookout.
‘Our building would be much lower than the two buildings already there. We would increase the amount of screenage.’
A planning application is expected to be submitted in the coming weeks.
Mr Haddock added: ‘I am sure we can all achieve what we want by discussion.’