PLANS to preserve Colne Valley Railway are set to suffer a major setback after council officers recommended a proposed expansion should be denied planning permission.

Colne Valley Railway Preservation Society wants to buy land known as Newman’s Sidings on the other side of the railway track from its base, in Yeldham Road, Castle Hedingham.

One bid to build a vehicle restoration centre on part of the land is recommended for approval at a Braintree Council planning committee meeting on Tuesday.

However, a second application for a new car park and reception building on the land is earmarked for refusal by council officers, who branded it an “intrusion into the countryside”.

In a report, officers said: “The proposal would introduce new features within the landscape including a building and hardstandings which would change the character of the site.”

Last July, the society struck a deal with Australian landowner Christopher Young, who wanted to redevelop the remainder of the land, including the site of the existing tourist attraction.

The move could be supported by £1.7 million the Heritage Lottery Fund, which provided £66,000 of seed funding to draw up the improvement plans.

However the existing lease for the railway, which attracts 40,000 visitors a year, expires in December.

The application was supported by Castle Hedingham Parish Council and seven residents, who said the tourist attraction was well-established but needed upgrading.

Two people, as well as the Environment Agency, opposed the bid, saying the site was a flood plain and citing road safety fears.

Visit Essex also supported the application, saying it would attract more people to the area.

No-one from the Colne Valley Railway Preservation Society was available for comment.

Councillors can either go with or overturn the officers’ recommendation at the meeting in Causeway House, Bocking End, Braintree, at 7.15pm on Tuesday.