A multi-million pound development to bring a former train depot in Banbury back into use after almost 50 years has been approved by Cherwell District councillors.
The application – submitted by Network Rail and Chiltern Railways for the construction of a light maintenance depot for train vehicles – was discussed at last Thursday’s planning committee meeting at Bodicote House.
The site is located on and adjoining land north of the River Cherwell and south west of Spital Farm Sewage at Bankside. It was formerly the location of a locomotive depot between 1908 and its decommission in 1966.
Councillor Michael Gibbard, Cherwell’s lead member for planning, said: “This is effectively a brownfield site located within a proposed green buffer in Cherwell’s submitted Local Plan. After the site was closed in 1967, the structures were demolished leaving various concrete slabs, platforms and remains of steel columns above ground level.
“Since then, the site has been effectively ignored for almost 50 years.”
The development will incorporate the light maintenance depot which will be located in the centre of the site and comprise of two tracks for maintenance and refuelling operations. Adjacent to the depot will be a building housing staff accommodation, welfare facilities and administration while a fuel tank will be situated to the south of the depot.
Four sidings will be built to the north of the site boundary to stable up to 18 trains overnight with an additional siding which will be used to house track engineering vehicles.
Mr Gibbard added: “Network Rail and Chiltern Railways have identified this as the only site in the country which is wholly suitable to accommodate this development. By granting permission, it will bring social and economic benefits through an improved rail service, job creation via th e depot and associated construction jobs.”
As part of the site selection process, 20 locations were initiatlly assessed for feasability and suitability, which in turned rule out 16 of the locations. In addition to Banbury, the three other ‘shortlisted’ sites were Wembley, Tyseley (Birmingham) and Leamington Spa.
Of all these sites, Banbury was the only site to fulfil all of the selection criteria including accessibility, capacity and proximity to the railway station.
Cherwell councillors stipulated work must begin on the site within three years.
Speaking at the planning meeting last Thursday, Cherwell councillor Colin Clarke said: “This site closed down in the 1960s and was very dirty and untidy and a bit of an eyesore. This application is in an ideal location to improve railway services in Banbury. There are a number of services that go north to Birmingham and south to London and Bournemouth and it is very important that Chiltern Railways has somewhere to locate its trains.”
Graham Cross, business development director at Chiltern Railways, added: “More and more people are choosing to travel by train. We have over two decades helped to improve railway services in Banbury, the number of passengers continue to grow and we are acquiring extra trains and will go on to acquire more in the future.We have reached the point where our existing depots at Aylesbury and Wembley have reached their maximum capacity.
“The new depot at Banbury will create employment opportunities for skilled engineering staff and apprenticeships. It enables Chiltern Railways to grow and to continue to offer passengers the best service possible.”