A HERITAGE railway company is looking to buy a Staffordshire Moorlands rail line to help safeguard its future.
Churnet Valley Railway is looking to raise funds to purchase the remaining Leekbrook to Cauldon line from Moorlands City Railway (MCR).
It comes as MCR has submitted a planning application to Staffordshire Moorlands District Council to build 89 homes on land it owns at Leekbrook.
If given the green light, the money would be ringed fenced to fund a rail link from Leekbrook into Leek near the Cornhill area, where Barnfields Hughes Ltd has already submitted a planning application to develop land.
The plans at the Hughes site include the construction of 211 houses, a marina, a new station for the railway and additional land for a railway museum, along with a pub and restaurant.
Speaking at a meeting of Ipstones Parish Council, chairman of Churnet Valley Railway (CVR), Tony Hancock, said: "Churnet Valley Railway is a heritage company, while MCR is a private company.
"However CVR has bought some shares in MCR.
"After talks with the Cauldon cement quarry they were prepared to sign a contract, to move some freight by rail.
"But now because Lafarge and Tarmac have joined together the government has intervened and the Competition Commission has said that Lafarge has to sell either the cement plant in Cauldon or Tunstead near Buxton.
"No contract can be signed until the issue is settled which could take up to two years for a clear picture to emerge.
"The track to Cauldon would need refurbishment to carry heavy freight, so CVR agreed with MCR to lift part of the line from Ipstones to Cauldon.
"If a contract is obtained in the future MCR would have to put a heavy freight line down.
"It is not going to be turned into a cycle track as MCR do want to put the track back.
"We are now looking to buy the rail line from Leekbrook to Ipstones to help safeguard it as passengers regularly tell us they love the scenery from Leekbrook to Ipstones.
"MCR want to get into Leek which CVR totally supports. We also want to get into Leek to be able to have a hub in the town, which has never been an option for us.
"It is also an aim to be able to run trains into Endon by the end of the year.
"We are trying our best to secure the railway for the future."
Director of MCR David Kemp confirmed that the three mile stretch of line from Ipstones to Cauldon had been sold.
He said: "We cannot continue talking to the Cauldon quarries due to the Competition Commission involvement.
"It was decided to lift the three mile track from Ipstones to Cauldon as it was not in good order and would need replacing for freight.
"The money has been invested and put into the Leekbrook development which has cost a lot of money preparing and submitting a planning application.
"CVR are looking at buying the metal line from Leekbrook to Ipstones which is a good investment for them and they can continue to run passenger trains. We would continue to own the land and the route.
"However if a contract is obtained when the ownership of the Cauldon cement works has been established we will have to put a new track in from Leekbrook. CVR could then sell the metal line.
"Getting the railway back into Leek will bring many benefits for the town and will complement the Barnfields Hughes Ltd proposed development.
"If our Leekbrook site is given planning permission the land will be sold to a developer. The proceeds from the sale will be ring fenced and money drawn down as required to complete the work into Leek."
Councillor Linda Malyon, whose area covers a large slice of the Leekbrook to Ipstones track said: "The line from Leekbrook to Cauldon has some lovely scenery.
"It is vital that the track is replaced as quickly as possible to encourage tourism.
"The shareholders of CVR expect the line to go to Cauldon."
It has been predicted by independent consultants that the tourist spend in Leek could increase by almost £1 million per year if the railway was brought back into the town.