Subject to planning permissions, work could begin in just over two years

A major £16.5million project to restore a North Devon heritage railway could be ‘shovel ready’ in just over two years.

North Devon Council has granted planning permission for ‘phase 2a’ to reinstate the Lynton and Barnstaple Railway from Blackmoor Gate to Wistlandpound, as well as to convert the Old Station House Inn.

The Lynton and Barnstaple Railway Trust has set up the L&B Blackmoor Company plc to buy and convert the old pub into a station and pub-restaurant.

It would also serve as an ‘engineering hub’ for the whole line.

Potential investors are now being invited to register their interest and have a stake in the rebirth of a railway.

A further five applications have yet to be decided by Exmoor National Park, but trust director Ian Cowling said if these were approved towards the end of the year, work on the ground would start two years after that.

Eventually, it is hoped to reopen the entire railway from Lynton to Barnstaple.

“This phase unlocks the whole railway, because it gives us a base at Blackmoor Gate,” said Mr Cowling.

“The key about the North Devon applications is it opens the way for us to acquire the Old Station House Inn.

“We have been discussing it with the owners for some time, but we have to raise the money from share sales and that offer is open until November.”

The narrow gauge railway already has a mile of track running from Woody Bay Station, but this extension would add another four-and-a-half miles.

It is expected the plans would bring 78 new jobs, 20 on the railway and another 50-plus locally.

Mr Cowling added: “In 10 years’ time, we will be putting £9/10million back into the local economy every year.”

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