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Bluebell Railway Preservation Society
Summary of the Committee meeting
held on 18th January 2008

Internal Communication - not for publication

The Committee met from 7:12pm until 10:37pm.  Sam Bee and Nicholas Pryor were absent. 

Membership: Membership numbers were 10,029. During 2007, 694 members were lost to the Society through non-renewal (635), resignation (38) and death (21). On the other side of the equation, 917 new members joined in 2007 giving a net gain of 223. The Committee sent its best wishes to Maurice Hare (volunteer signalman, RMB Steward and Wednesday Gang) for a speedy recovery following his recent fall. Maurice has now been released from hospital but will be 'red carded' for several weeks.

Society Finance: Subscription and donation income rallied slightly at the end of the year and finished at £126k (£127k in 2006). Income to the Land Purchase fund was a shade under £11k (£11.4k in 2006). Cash transfers to the company amounted to £139k.

Company Finance: 2007 had been a difficult year and money had been particularly tight, not helped by the £30 per tonne increase in coal costs as well as increasing rates, water rates and other overheads. It was likely that 2008 would be just as difficult if not more so and the need to contain and constrain expenditure was emphasised.

Northern Extension: The Committee was told that the company had decided to withdraw the planning application to remove Condition 11 (restricted hours of operation) from the East Grinstead station site in the light of the recommendation by the planning officers to refuse permission. Discussions would now take place to see if we could find a way forward. Permission had now been obtained from West Sussex County Council for the volunteer Wednesday and Fencing Gangs to remove the vegetation from the tip and repair fences during February and March. No burning would be allowed and the tip remains out of bounds to all but those with permission to be there.

Funding: A long discussion took place on the proposed share issue, focussing on likely shareholder benefits. The threshold for benefits would be set very high and benefits would also be time-limited. It was also intended that there would be a minimum subscription of £250. Views were also sought from the Society as to whether existing shareholdings should be taken into account in accruing benefits or ignored for the purpose of this share issue. It was difficult to assess what the views of the membership would be when they had not been told (until now) what benefits / constraints the share issue would have. The Committee was concerned at the lack of drive in pushing this forward and was curious as to why these issues were being raised so late in the day. The Committee then turned its attention to the emerging proposal (though not yet submitted to or agreed by Trustees) for a £200k + second storey to the Loco Workshop to house workshop offices, toilets, loco lobby and classroom. This would allow the existing lobby to be demolished and the new pit built. The classroom could also be removed releasing space in the car park. On top of the East Grinstead and Operation Undercover Projects, both of which would consume a huge amount of money and effort, it was felt that this was a bridge too far for the railway to finance and resource at this stage.

Operation Undercover: The Stage 2 application had now been submitted to the Heritage Lottery Fund. The HLF had now asked for additional information and for a report on the Museum proposals. The outcome of the Planning Permission from Lewes District Council was still awaited.

P/Way Tools: The Committee noted with pleasure the first set of accounts from the Sunday P/Way gang and congratulated them on their fund raising efforts.

President's Birthday: The Committee discussed in outline the arrangements for our President's 100th birthday on 15th March. This would be celebrated on the railway on Sunday 16th March as the actual day was a family event.

Gavin Bennett
General Secretary


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