By Phil Marsh
Wolverton Works, the longest continuously-open standard gauge railway works in the world, was legally consigned to history on December 20 by Milton Keynes Council.
That was the date which will go down in history as the formal signing-off of the planning application by its owners, property development company St Modwen. The company’s plans say that up to 375 dwellings will be built on half of the site, with the other half destined to be retained for industrial use possibly including a smaller but brand new railway works.
It was understood, but not confirmed by either party, that Wolverton Works’ tenant Knorr-Bremse recently signed a new lease with site owner St Modwen running for a maximum length of 25 years.
The initial lease was for five years signed when the company took over the works in September 2013 buying the business from Railcare’s administrator.
The 38 acre works, dating from 1838, is contained within a Conservation Area as is the surrounding Victorian housing estate which legally should provide protection from demolition. A local referendum resulted in overwhelming support to retain the Victorian and Edwardian buildings on the site dating back to 1860s when the famous LNWR Wolverton ‘Bloomers’ were being erected, irrespective of whether in railway use or not.
The planning application has proved to be extremely controversial and following what were described as ‘irregularities’ by Milton Keynes Council uncovered by Freedom of Information requests, backed up by further evidence from data requests to St Modwen, its agent GL Hearn and Knorr-Bremse brought a total of three planning hearings. The last one, on September 25, was held after the previous two were annulled due to the irregularities highlighted by Historic England.
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