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Bluebell Railway Preservation Society
Summary of the Committee meetings
held on 29th February 2008 and 18th April 2008

Internal Communication - not for publication

I am sorry for the delay in circulating the February notes. The need to get the AGM material finished at the same time as I was suffering with a shoulder problem - which prevented me from spending anything more than very short periods at the computer - meant that some things had to fall by the wayside.

February meeting

The Committee met from 7:04pm until 10:30pm. Nicholas Pryor was absent.

Membership: Membership numbers were 10,149 but about 200 renewals were still outstanding. Gerry Brown reported that the latest renewal draw for a year's free membership (where a donation is made in addition to the subscription) had resulted in a net profit of £752.

Society Finance: Subscription and donation income for January was just under £40k (just over £40k in 2007). A planning meeting has been held with the auditors for the 2007 accounts. The Committee approved proposals for dealing with Operation Undercover loans that were due to be repaid in 2008 and recorded its thanks to those members who had agreed to convert into shares, donate or defer repayment of the loan.

Company Finance:  Wild rumours claiming that the company was insolvent were dismissed as nonsense. It was normal to have an overdraft at this time of year and the level of debt as a percentage of the asset base was very low. The railway finished 2007 above budget for revenue though expenditure had also gone up, most noticeably coal costs. We had also had to fund the VAT element of some Operation Undercover expenditure which we will get back at the end of the VAT quarter.

Northern Extension:  A draft of the share prospectus was due back from the lawyers in early March. HMRC had now accepted our case for exemption from paying Landfill Tax when the tip is removed to another site, thus saving around £1m. Discussions had been held with MSDC over the Planning Conditions for EG Station but we were no further forward and another meeting between the lawyers and the Council was planned. Congratulations and thanks were recorded to Nigel Longdon, Ian Aitken and their respective teams for all their hard work on clearing trees and undergrowth from the tip.

Mid Sussex Core Strategy:   This was out for consultation until 20th March and the proposals for East Grinstead included a housing development on both sides of the line north of Imberhorne Lane Bridge (the map shows development on the line itself) right up to and beyond the south end of the viaduct. Apart from a brief mention in the introduction to the Core Strategy, there was no mention of the railway in the critical East Grinstead section. The Committee resolved to use its majority shareholding to ensure that the company submitted a strong objection to these proposals.

Operation Undercover:  Lewes District Council had granted Planning Consent for the project. There were a few conditions but these were not regarded as onerous or obstructive. The decision from the HLF was expected in mid-March.

Pullman Car 'Eagle' / Conversion of BGZ:  This meeting discussed in some depth the proposal to return this vehicle to the NRM. Problems with the electrics had highlighted the need for a complete rewire. Such a task was complicated by the suspicion that small sealed pockets of asbestos might still be present and this would require specialised removal. Since the main use of Eagle was to provide storage and washing up facilities, it was proposed to convert the interior of the BGZ to provide these facilities. Partitions would be erected, a new washable floor laid, the coal stove would be removed and additional steam heating provided. As the vehicle would have to be marshalled into the middle of the train, it was also proposed to change the livery. The meeting was assured the proposal had the support of the C&W Dept and that the vehicle could be returned back to its current condition when no longer required. The proposals were agreed.

Youth Protection:  There was a need for the railway to update its Youth Protection Policy so as to provide the right framework to encourage young volunteers and to ensure the protection of both them and adults alike. It was agreed to establish with the company a Steering Group to look at the issues and to prepare proposals.

Social sub-committee: The Report and Accounts of the SSC were noted and the sub-committee thanked for its efforts during 2007. Regrettably, there were now several vacancies on the sub-committee and several events will not take place this year due to lack of support or helpers. If anyone is interested in joining or helping the SSC, please contact Neil Glaskin.

Friends of Kingscote accounts: These were noted with pleasure and the Friends thanked for the efforts during the year.

April meeting

The Committee met from 8:10pm until 11pm. Tim Baker (working on Real Ale train) and Sam Bee were absent.

MSDC Core Strategy: The Committee were pleased to note that the railway's advisor had submitted an excellent objection to the Core Strategy and to housing development right up to the railway's boundary.

Membership:  Membership numbers were only just over the 10,000 mark due to a number of non-renewals. Some training had been provided for the Direct Debit system and the trial run had gone well with only one record rejected and that was due to the member giving us an incorrect account number. Some minor technical issues remain outstanding but these were not insoluble.

Society Finance: Subscription and donation income for the first three months was slightly up on 2007. Two of the 'Woodpax' loans had been repaid. The Society accounts for 2007 showed a surplus of £136k but the benefit arising from shares given to the Society is now shown as a donation. The existing deferred share scheme will be finalised and any differences will be written off.

Company Finance: There was a need to keep a realistic balance between caution (because of the general economic slowdown) and optimism (leading to over-spending). We are on a sound financial footing but caution is needed because of the impact of an early Easter and the recent poor weather. We also needed to bear in mind that we were not running a Thomas event this year.

Extension:   The Company had selected the contractor to clear the tip. All bids had been on a par but the proposed methodology and willingness to use and train volunteers for some tasks had swayed matters in favour of the chosen contractor. A seminar earlier in the day organised by East Grinstead Town Council to explore ways of helping us get to East Grinstead and to improve the station area had proved useful and interesting.

Operation Undercover:  As everyone knows, we have succeeded in getting a grant from the HLF which covers around 73% of the agreed project costs. Special thanks must go to Tim Preston for his magnificent contribution towards our success in achieving this award. There are still a lot of issues to be resolved before we can move forward, not least rail access to the site. This is dependent on the washout pit being relocated to the site of the Loco Lobby which will have to be demolished. Alternative arrangements will have to be provided but no decision as to what or where has been made. These issues will have to be resolved in the next few weeks. The colony of bats in the wooden building will have to be surveyed and relocated before it can be demolished. There is also the funding gap to be bridged and whilst some of this can be covered by volunteer labour, finance will be needed.

Due to an oversight, Nicholas Pryor failed to submit by the advertised date his nomination as Trustee for a further three years. He will therefore cease as a Trustee after the AGM. The Committee discussed how to move forward with the project. It was a very important project and it was vital to maintain the relationship with the HLF. It was also important to consider the needs of the railway and we had a lot on our plates for the next few years. The Board had already decided to set up a small focussed sub-committee to drive the project forward towards construction as it was important to maintain the impetus. The Committee felt that it was essential for Nicholas to continue as project champion at Board level and would take this into account when making its nominations for Directors at its first meeting following the AGM.

Rolling Stock sub-committee:   The Committee approved the proposed Terms of Reference for this sub-committee, subject to the removal of the requirement for the Chairman to be elected by the C&W AGM so as to comply with the Society's rules.

Heritage Wagons Strategy:   The Committee welcomed this document but was concerned that it made no reference to the one-in-one-out policy. A question was raised as to whether the inclusion of ex-BR stock was appropriate but it was acknowledged that robust "works wagons" were needed for engineering works. It was agreed to discuss this again after the AGM.

GWR Van 92:   The Committee agreed to the disposal of this vehicle to a suitable location.

Colour of BGZ Van 32975:   In a remarkably short livery discussion, the Committee agreed the BGZ should be repainted into Pullman umber and cream for its new role.

Ownership of the Stroudley Train:  The Committee agreed to transfer full ownership of Stroudley Train (currently split between company and Trust) to the Bluebell Railway Trust. This also includes Craven coach No 35.

Stroudley Fund Accounts:  The Fund accounts for 2007 were noted with pleasure.

Next meeting: The next meeting will be held on 30th May

Gavin Bennett
General Secretary


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