A MAJOR project has been launched to bring trains back into Leek – which could be worth up to £1 million a year to the town’s economy.
The scheme, entitled ‘Reconnect Leek Project’, depends on Moorland & City Railways gaining planning permission to build around 89 homes on a nine-acre site at Leekbrook.
If approved, the land would be sold and the money spent on bringing the railway line to Leek, with two stations planned – at Leekbrook and close to the cattle market off Junction Road, around half-amile from the town centre.
Heritage trains would bring in visitors to a newly built operational station, and then mini-buses would transport people to the heart of the town.
The plans will now go on show at a public exhibition this Thursday, Friday and Saturday, November 14, 15 and 16, at the Foxlowe Arts Centre at the top of Market Place, between 10am and 4pm each day.
Director of Moorland & City Railways, David Kemp, said following the exhibition and after taking on people’s views, an outline planning application for the housing would be submitted to Staffordshire Moorlands District Council.
Mr Kemp said: “We are proposing to build around 89 units on the land known as the Leekbrook Triangle, which we own.
“The homes would be a mixture of terraced houses and apartments.
“There would also be a small operational station where people could get on and off a train at Leekbrook.
“Footpaths and public access in the area would also be improved. In addition, work would also involve having an operational station in Leek as well. Heritage trains could then run into the town.
“Tourism consultants have said that having trains travelling into Leek will improve the offer and help the town.
“Mini-buses would transport visitors into Leek town centre for the short journey.
“Tourist spending power could be worth around the £1 million mark for the town.
“The track bed is already there and it is not a difficult job to complete.
“If planning permission is granted we could move forward quickly.”
The leader of Staffordshire Moorlands District Council, Sybil Ralphs, who also has the responsibility for regeneration, said the council had been working on the project with Mr Kemp for years.
She said: “There have been a a number of difficulties along the way, which have had to be dealt with, but David’s enthusiasm has never faltered, and neither has mine.
"To bring the railway back to Leek would be a major boost not only for tourist and the local economy, but also for the employment opportunities it will create. In days gone by towns became prosperous when the railway reached them; that is what we want for Leek and the Moorlands.”
Leek town mayor, John Fisher, said: “Bringing the railway back to Leek will really put the town on the tourist map.
“People will also eventually be able to travel to Stoke, which would be a marvellous idea. This is something extra for people to use and would be a great attraction.”
Moorland & City Railways has already opened up the Leekbrook to Cauldon line, and heritage trains from Churnet Valley Railway have made excursions from Froghall to Cauldon.
The company has also started some work on the Leekbrook to Stoke line.