Train journeys on one of the UK's most popular steam railways could be in jeopardy.

The Bluebell Railway, based at Sheffield Park, near Haywards Heath, has been unable to finalise its timetable for 2002 because it needs planning permission to run trains between Horsted Keynes and Kingscote.

Steam enthusiasts have been relaying track where the old London Brighton & South Coast Railway used to run and eventually hope to reach East Grinstead. They have got as far north as Kingscote.

However, because of Kingscote's sensitive rural location, the Bluebell has only ever been given temporary planning permission to use the station there as a terminus, pending completion of the track to East Grinstead.

The old permission ran out on New Year's Eve. A new application has been made to Mid Sussex District Council but is unlikely to be considered before January 10.

Council planning officer Tim Barkley said: "During the last 15 years, they the enthusiasts have been steadily making progress but have only got as far as Kingscote.

"We have given them a series of temporary permissions to go there and turn back.

"The railway has made an application to renew it for a further five years but it is proving controversial locally."

Mr Barkley said a lot of the concern had arisen because there was no car parking at Kingscote station and using it as a permanent terminus would lead to traffic congestion and loss of amenities for locals.

He said some people feared the Bluebell would never extend its tracks all the way to East Grinstead because of the high cost involved and Kingscote would become the track's permanent end.

He said: "The application came in a bit late and in a rather confused form and it has taken some meetings to sort out what they are trying to do.

"We have had to place quite strict restrictions on the railway because of the location not being suitable and they find that hard to accept."

No one at Bluebell Railway was available for comment.