PLANS have been unveiled that could safeguard the future of a popular railway museum that had faced closure.

Budget pressures had resulted in the announcement of plans to cut the £265,000 annual subsidy Darlington Borough Council pays to operate the town's Head of Steam Museum.

But members of the council’s cabinet are now being asked to continue the subsidy beyond 2016/17, when it was due to end.

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It now looks as though the museum could play a key role in plans, currently under development, to mark the 200th anniversary of the Stockton and Darlington Railway, the world’s first passenger line, in 2025.

To that end, members have also been asked to endorse a proposed application for World Heritage Site status for the 1825 railway.

A report prepared for cabinet members said: “While budget pressures remain a challenge, there is a need to create a vision plan that secures a sustainable future for the Head of Steam.

“Recent stakeholder engagement has revealed the importance of Darlington’s railway heritage as a key component in the unique offer of the town.

“The proud heritage of innovation, skills, engineering and world firsts that the town has is seen as key economic selling point.”

Members are also being asked to approve an initial investment of £10,000 to fund a public engagement and consultation process around the plans.

The report added: “There have been a number of development inquiries in the area surrounding the Head of Steam, and for uses within the site itself, that could contribute to the creation of an exciting destination that will develop the wider economy.”

Council leader Bill Dixon said: "We recognise the global significance of Darlington as the birthplace of the passenger railway and we believe our railway heritage can be used as a catalyst for economic growth.

“We aim to develop a heritage campus with the Head of Steam museum as a key part of that.

"We’ll continue to fund the museum and plan to work with partners to generate the vision finance and activities that are needed.

“As part of the master plan we want to work alongside the private sector to compliment and improve the campus offering, turning the site into a significant attraction.”

The cabinet meets at the Town Hall 5pm on Tuesday, July 1.