AN HISTORIC landmark is set to be returned to its former glory due to the generosity of a local businessman.

Dennis Swain will sink up to £60,000 of his own money into refurbishing the signal box at Highams Park Station, which has become derelict since falling out of use more than a decade ago.

The manager of Dendale Construction Ltd in Hale End Road said the locally listed "icon", which used to direct trains and operate the level crossing, could be used for community activities or even become a police base, But his main objective is to return it to its original state once he signs a lease for the box with owner Network Rail.

"We want to restore a major icon of Highams Park. I remember it from when I was a kid and it's just part of our area, it helps define Highams Park," he said.

"It would result in a great loss to sit here and do nothing. I want to make it good as new, with the right signage and by salvaging materials from the interior so we don't use much that's new."

Mr Swain plans to use the oak blocks which formerly housed the levers inside the building to replace the flooring and hopes to use contemporary materials to ensure the building looks authentic.

The box, which became the subject of a local campaign ten years ago when Railtrack, now Network Rail, threatened to demolish it as part of a plan to operate the crossing remotely using CCTV cameras.

The campaign to retain the now 87-year-old building was a success, despite the switch to CCTV, and resulted in it being locally listed.

Network Rail has agreed lease the building to Mr Swain, on the understanding that he is responsible for maintenance.

Mike Payne, secretary of the Highams Park Forum, the group at the centre of the campaign in 2002, welcomed the latest development.

"It seems like a great arrangement for everybody," he said. "Our main interest is preserving its external appearance because it is such a landmark here.

"It's been years in the making, it's been a long journey and we hope we're towards the end of it."