A HUGE £12million development and restoration of an East Lancashire Railway depot is set to create ‘the best heritage railway in the country’.
Plans were approved this week for the development of the historic locomotive and wagon yard at Buckley Wells in Bury, sometimes home to the most famous of all steam engines, The Flying Scotsman.
The works include the restoration of the listed 1857 locomotive factory building, and the construction of a new locomotive marching shed as well as workshops and a training centre.
A new car shed will also be built to store rolling stock under cover, which the railway says could double the life of the cars.
ELR President Mike Kelly pointed out the many benefits of the proposals to Bury planners, before they unanimously backed the proposals.
He said: “This is an important and revolutionary application. For the past 50 consecutive years as a charity, the ELR has been ably supported by thousands of volunteers who give freely of their skills and time to protect and preserve this region’s rich industrial transport heritage.
“The ELR currently attracts over 200,000 visitors a year. “The contribution to the local economy increased significantly between 2008 and 2019, where visitor jobs and added value doubled.
“A new 10-year strategy has been drawn up, which foresees an increase in the number of visitors by 30% and an increase in jobs from 150 to 220.
“Without this plan, it is unlikely that the infrastructure can develop to meet the plans.
“Our vision is for Buckley Wells to be an engineering center of excellence, building on our apprenticeship program and encouraging more young people into this skilled and sought-after employment.
“We want to be the best heritage railway in the UK.”
The Buckley Wells site is on Baron Street, close to Bury Girls’ and Boys’ High Schools.
A report to the members of the borough’s planning committee describes the context of the development of the nine-hectare site.
He said: “The ELR plays a key role as a tourist and heritage attraction in the North West. It has its main workshop at Buckley Wells where locomotives, cars and wagons are housed.
“Over the past few years, the ELR has continued work to help improve the visitor experience at Buckley Wells.
“It is the essential and indispensable base for the storage and maintenance of historic locomotives and carriages such as the Flying Scotsman.”
The report added that the current building was deteriorating badly and therefore required restoration and that the new building would be used so that the fleet could be “maintained to the highest possible standards”.
The ELR will also use the building to train future generations of volunteer engineers who will be needed to operate the heritage railway in the future.
The report adds: “Essentially, the development work is essential for the managed growth of the ELR over the long term and in a sustainable manner as a premier tourist and heritage attraction.
The eastern part of the site near the entrance will be converted into parking for staff, volunteers and visitors. This would result in the removal of some buildings in this area that would not be needed due to the new facilities.
The members present unanimously supported the plans.