A huge scheme to reinstate the Lynton to Barnstaple Railway and provide a massive boost to the local economy has been approved.

Will trains like this one become a common sight as the Lynton and Barnstaple Railway spreads across Exmoor?Will trains like this one become a common sight as the Lynton and Barnstaple Railway spreads across Exmoor?

On Tuesday Exmoor National Park Authority gave the green light to plans to relay three-and-a-half miles of heritage railway track from Killington Lane to Blackmoor Gate.

It also approved a bid by Lynton and Barnstaple Railway Trust to build an engineering centre and rolling stock shed north of Blackmoor Gate.

There would also be a 160-space car park on the site of the old Blackmoor Gate Hotel on the other side of the A39 with a pedestrian underpass.

The £16.5million project would see five-and-a-half miles of track returned to North Devon almost a century after the narrow gauge railway line closed.

The Lynton and Barnstaple Railway could bring £62m into the North Devon economy in its first 10 years after expansion. Picture: Tony NicholsonThe Lynton and Barnstaple Railway could bring £62m into the North Devon economy in its first 10 years after expansion. Picture: Tony Nicholson

The trust believes the project will provide huge regeneration for the area, creating 24 full time jobs and bringing £62m into the area during the first 10 years of operating.

North Devon Council has already granted permission to reinstate a further mile of track between Blackmoor Gate and Wistlandpound Reservoir and to convert the Old Station House Inn - the former Blackmoor Station - into a combined railway station and pub-restaurant.

At Tuesday's meeting in Lynton Town Hall, the national park approved plans which include the demolition of a 1987 bungalow on the track bed at Parracombe Halt.

But the authority rejected proposals to create two semi-detached houses at the back of the halt, one to provide affordable needs accommodation and the other a home for a railway employee.

The original line closed in 1935 after 37 years of operation, but was brought back to life by enthusiasts in 2004 and currently runs on a mile of track.

Rebuilding the railway is expected to take around three years and in five years passengers could be riding the train from Woody Bay to Wistlandpound, with a shuttle bus service connecting to Lynton.

Then the plan is to rebuild the entire line right through to Lynton and back to Barnstaple.

The trust has already raised and spent some £2m - including building a new locomotive called Lyn - but now plans to fund raise in earnest to pay for the major project.