Hollywood actor Hugh Grant has unwittingly found himself at the centre of a feud between Helston Railway and the residents of Prospidnick.
It is after the rom com star became one of more than 1,800 people to sign a petition supporting the railway company’s bid for expansion while visiting its base at Trevarno Farm, where members are laying sections of track.
The preservation company has applied for planning permission to use a temporary platform and build a permanent one, as well as extend the track and sidings, form a car park and turn buildings into workshops and shops.
There is a separate application for an access road.
Now members of a campaign group set up to fight the applications are calling for Hugh to return to the area and hear their side of the story, saying they were “disappointed” such a high profile privacy campaigner has given the plans his backing.
Campaigner Adrian Curtis said: “We have asked Hugh Grant to meet with us and give us the same amount of time that he gave Helston Railway, so that we can put our side of the story.
“We are very disappointed that Mr Grant, who has led very high profile campaigns against invasion of privacy, has now given his backing to the Helston Railway Company scheme, which quite clearly erodes the privacy of a number of local families.”
Residents are opposing the plans due concerns over a loss of privacy and quality of life for neighbours, the environmental impact and flooding.
They also object to changing Trevarno Farm from agricultural use to retail and workshops, when Helston has empty shops and three industrial estates within a few miles, and claim the company is “clearly creating a tourist attraction in the countryside, rather than reinstating the former branch line between Gwinear Road and Helston.”
Chairman Richard Barnes said in response: “We have had over 1,800 signatures on this petition and he is just one person.”
The star of romantic comedies such as Four Weddings and a Funeral and Bridget Jones’s Diary had paid the railway attraction a visit last Thursday, having spoken to one its members the previous week when he asked if there were any heritage railways in the area.
When he arrived it took a few moments for anyone to realise there was a star in their midst.
Margaret Gough and Pam Hobbs in the buffet were only duty and merely noticed “this rather good looking, quiet man waiting to be served.”
Margaret said: “I just thought, ‘Oh, he looks really nice’ and then I realised, ‘Oh my goodness it’s Hugh Grant’ and my jaw dropped.”
Not having watched so many films, however, ticket master Len Moyle remained oblivious to the fame of his next passenger and treated him to the same banter as all his customers receive.
General manager Alan Burton said: “When I told one of the ladies who was walking up the platform after him that she was about to have a train ride with Hugh Grant she nearly fell off the platform.”
Returning from his train ride 25 minutes later Hugh enjoyed a cream tea back in the buffet, where he had his photograph with Margaret and Pam.
Pam said: “He was just like you expect him to be, charming, smiling and kind. We then asked him if he would be willing to sign our planning permission petition and he said yes – so we have his autograph as well!”
Margaret added: “We feel really privileged that he came to see us and we really hope that he will come back some day to see us again. He is definitely a star in all senses of the word.”
During the same day Hugh also paid a visit to Roskilly’s ice cream parlour near St Keverne.
Writing on their Facebook page this afternoon, Roskilly’s said: “We hope Mr Hugh Grant enjoyed his Roskilly's clotted cream vanilla and strawberry ice cream today.”