European Agriculture Fund For Rural Development
The full estimated cost of the re-instatement is approximately £1.2 million. For the Churnet Valley Railway to meet this cost themselves through ticket sales alone would take multiple decades, especially when also considering the maintenance requirements of the current set-up. This timescale is totally inappropriate for the needs of reconnecting into Leek, and so alternative solutions were sought.
One such solution was found in the European Agriculture Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD), which is an EU initiative providing grants to help with developing rural areas across member states focusing on three main areas:
- Fostering the competitiveness of agriculture
- Ensuring the sustainable management of natural resources, and climate action
- Achieving a balanced territorial development of rural economies and communities, including the creation and maintenance of employment
The third area applies to the Leek extension quite clearly, with the redevelopment of a current brownfield site expected to help increase tourism to the area and subsequently local employment as well. It will also provide the first step in connecting Leek to a railway line, with potential to extend on towards both Alton Towers and Stoke-on-Trent at later dates.
The CVR has applied for a 61.1% grant towards the overall cost of this project. The balance will need to be sourced from further Donation appeals, Share Issue subscriptions and other grant sources. A response should hopefully be received, in early 2020, with the track, platforms and temporary station scheduled for completion by Christmas 2021. A separate scheme will be needed to construct a permanent station building.
This is only the beginning of an incredible journey for the Railway and its supporters. With 5.5 miles already open between Leekbrook and Kingsley & Froghall, a further 2 miles of track-bed owned South towards Oakamoor, plus trains operating along the 4.5 miles to Ipstones and possible future connections with Alton Towers and Stoke-on-Trent; there is the potential for a 30+ mile network across North Staffordshire.