THE possibility of reopening a railway line between Bourne End and High Wycombe was furiously argued today during a public enquiry into a controversial planning application.

Developer Henry Homes wants to build on the thin strip of land behind Wycombe Lane, Wooburn Green and launched an appeal after Wycombe District Council failed to make a decision over its plans within its target of 13 weeks.

Today the council argued strongly why it listed the safe guarding of the land as one of its main reasons for refusing the scheme to build 29 homes on the 0.77 hectare plot, if a decision had been made on it.

Henry Homes, meanwhile said the possibility of the reopening of the line was “highly unlikely”.

If reopened the council would like to introduce a light rail or ultra light rail line between High Wycombe and Bourne End, which could open up opportunities to link up with First Great Western trains via Maidenhead.

Hugh Chaplain, giving evidence on behalf of Henry Homes, gave details of similar schemes proposed in Liverpool and Leeds, which had not got off the ground.

He said: “Given the evidence relating to light railway there's little chance in my lifetime of a light rail scheme being delivered on this (the Bourne End to High Wycombe) corridor.”

Mr Chaplain added the estimated cost of reinstating the line was put at around £200 million – a figure the High Wycombe society disagreed with.

The society, which works to protect the district's green spaces, has been campaigning for years to get the line reopened.

Nigel Phillips, a society member, said: “We're talking about five miles that doesn't cross the Thames, it crosses the motorway where there's already a tunnel for it.

“£40 million a mile is inflated.”

This is the second appeal Henry Homes has lodged against the district council over its plans to build on the disused line.

In November 2006 the council turned down Henry's proposals to build 33 homes on the site. Henry lost its subsequent appeal to the planning inspector.

The enquiry is expected to finish tomorrow.