Future of light railway secured after land deal is struck with developers
A community light railway in Lancashire has been saved after it purchased land along its route which had been earmarked for development.
The West Lancashire Light Railway, based in Hesketh Bank, has acquired an area of land along the quarter of a mile route of its narrow-gauge line.
It has also secured a long-term access agreement with the previous landowner to accommodate car parking for railway users, while housing planned on surrounding land can still go ahead.
The railway has operated for over five decades using redundant land on the site of a disused brickworks.
With only a rolling six-month licence arrangement to use the land, the railway had no secure agreement.
A large area of the brownfield site was recently sold to developers with further housing planned on the railway’s yard area and also affecting parking facilities.
Harrison Drury Solicitors and Acland Bracewell Surveyors Limited supported the railway in its negotiations with the developers, planning issues and land purchase.
John Chesworth, executive chairman at Harrison Drury, advised the railway on retaining the right of way through the development area and on land purchase options. Dan Boulton, commercial property specialist at the firm, then managed the purchase of the land.
Paul Smith, consultant with Tarleton-based Acland Bracewell Surveyors Limited, said: “I’ve a soft spot for steam trains so helping them was something I simply jumped at. With the land transactions proving to be very complicated, I had no hesitation in seeking further legal advice from Harrison Drury.
“I am delighted that the West Lancashire Railway has managed to secure its home in Hesketh Bank for future steam train enthusiasts and the local community to enjoy.”
In addition to the newly acquired land along the track route, the railway owns a number of buildings plus several locomotives. It operates every Sunday and Bank holiday as well as running its popular ‘Santa Special’ in December.
Mike Spall, a trustee for the railway, said: “We were overwhelmed with support to help purchase the land for the line. There was fierce competition to sell the land for residential development but with donations coming from members, friends and the local community we raised the necessary funds.
“The railway is a valuable community asset with over 200 members and 70 active volunteers, young and old.
“We all work together to keep it running, with engineering work, track and locomotive maintenance, train operation, route landscaping as well as tickets sales and hospitality. It’s great news that this will all continue.”
The West Lancashire Light Railway is a short narrow-gauge passenger-carrying railway. First set up in 1967 by a group of local teenager rail enthusiasts, it runs for about a quarter of a mile in the village of Hesketh Bank, in West Lancashire with over a 10,000 passengers per year.
It is operated as a charitable trust entirely by volunteers, and is funded by fare income, donations and membership fees.