A SCHEME to reopen a disused railway line in West Devon has moved a step forward after members of the area's district council provisionally gave it their approval.
Members of West Devon Borough Council's future planning and housing committee have agreed to an overall "core strategy" for the authority, which includes the scheme to reopen the 5.5 mile stretch of railway from Tavistock to Bere Alston.
Kilbride Community Rail Group has campaigned for the scheme – which would cost £18.5 million – to go ahead. The scheme is part of a proposal by Kilbride Properties to build 750 new homes in Tavistock.
It has published a viability report in which it sets out its case for the route going ahead. The railway line was chopped under the Beeching axe in the 1960s.
The report says a train stopping at all stations on the route could be in Plymouth in 32 minutes. It plans to run 16 trains a day between Tavistock and Plymouth.
The first train would leave Tavistock at 6.03am, with the second at 8.18am, getting to Plymouth at 8.46am. The last train would be at 9.07pm. In the opposite direction, trains would start at 5.32am and end at 9.38pm.
On Tuesday, West Devon Borough Council's future planning and housing committee approved the proposals as part of the core strategy of its local development framework, which will go before full council this month.
However, a spokesman for West Devon Borough Council said the housing development and proposals to reopen the rail line are "not inextricably linked" and said the authority has to have the houses as part of the Government's overall housing strategy.
Marion Playle, head of housing and strategy planning for West Devon, said: "Access to services is also important, so if we're going to have the additional houses we're saying, wouldn't it be great to have this link too."
Roy Connelly, a West Devon Borough Councillor for Tavistock North who is on the future planning and housing committee, said there was a "very mixed response" towards the Bere Alston-Tavistock rail link proposals.
Coun Mandy Govier who represents the Tavistock South ward and is also on the committee, said there were also concerns about the number of houses proposed.
She said: "Some people in Tavistock feel that another town is going to be created."
However, she added it had been made clear at Tuesday's meeting the housing development and the proposals for the rail link were not necessarily connected, and the council has not yet looked at the preferred developer for the additional houses. She said: "The railway is a desire but the houses are essential."
The core strategy will go before full council on Tuesday, April 21. There will then be another period of consultation before it is sent to the planning inspectorate.
The full report can be seen at www.kilbridegroup.com/tavistock