A TRANSPORT authority has raised the hopes of opponents to a developer's plan to build 24 luxury homes on the site of a former village railway station, which locals fear will never be replaced if permission for the development is granted.

Strathclyde Passenger Transport suggested acceptance of a planning application by Belway Homes for a four-acre housing development at Bridge of Weir would be ''short-sighted'' and could actually damage future residential expansion in the area.

Almost 1200 objections have been lodged with Renfrewshire Council to the proposal which, if accepted, would effectively end any future hopes of restoration of the former Kilmacolm line, which was axed in 1983.

Among the objectors are West Renfrewshire Independent MP Tommy Graham and SNP MSP Colin Campbell.

The Church of Scotland, Renfrewshire SNP councillor Carol Puthucheary, the Railway Development Society, and community councils in Bridge of Weir, Brookfield, and Kilmacolm have also lent their support in a move to block the development.

In response to a letter from the planning authority, Renfrewshire Council - which invited observations on the proposal - SPT director general Malcolm Reed cites similarities to the previous reinstatement of passenger rail services in Renfrewshire.

Mr Reed says: ''SPT found it necessary to reopen the Corkerhill-Paisley Canal section despite previous closure.

''Fifteen years ago it would probably have been said that there was no reasonable prospect of re-use of this section. If it had not been safeguarded by continuing freight use, local communities would not have been able to enjoy the benefit of this re-opening.

''If the Bridge of Weir/Kilmacolm areas are to see future residential expansion, it would be extremely shortsighted to foreclose future options for the section of the route west of Elderslie.''

Councillor Puthucheary yesterday welcomed the SPT response. She said: ''SPT's argument that technical difficulties can be easily overcome leads me to believe that, with the support of the people of Bridge of Weir, Houston, Kilmacolm, and Brookfield, a campaign to reopen the rail link between Kilmacolm and Glasgow would be successful.''

Sustrans, a green transport group, has struck a deal with Belway Homes to sell the land at Bridge of Weir station, which is understood to be valued at more than #500,000.

The charity, established in 1984, was awarded a National Lottery grant of #42.5m in 1995 towards the cost of a UK-wide 5000-mile millennium cycle route costing #183m.

The land was formerly owned by British Railways Board, which sold it to Sustrans for #1 following the closure of the Kilmacolm line.

The deal was one of many land disposals made by BRB between 1960 and the mid 1980s following the Beeching cuts.

The charity insists any proceeds from the sale of land will be ploughed back into the cycle track project.

A council spokesman said yesterday: ''The SPT is only one of the consultees in this particular planning application. All comments and objections will be reported to the planning committee when it meets to decide the application.''

A decision could be made later this month.