Internal Communication - not for publication
Standard Committee meetings were held in September (David Foale and Russell Pearce were absent) and November (Paul Churchman was absent). A special Joint Meeting between the Society, company and Trust Representatives was held in October (Tim Baker, Gerry Brown and Charles Hudson were absent) to discuss fund raising, followed by a very short Committee meeting to discuss Operation Undercover issues.
Taking the Joint Meeting first, Graham Flight gave a presentation on funding options to meet the challenge of securing £5m to complete the extension. Options considered were charitable giving, the share issue and direct fund-raising.
Charitable giving: The existing Trust was based on old fashioned though highly charitable objectives but the Charity Commissioners had ruled that funding the extension was not one of them. It was not worth appealing this decision nor was there any merit in seeking to change the Trust deed. The favoured solution was a new Trust created under the new Charities Act and using Public Benefit as criteria to deliver environmental improvements, transport enhancement and public access. The new Trust would be focused on East Grinstead and would not be able to have the same level of Bluebell involvement as the existing Trust. The Committee agreed that this should be explored further in much more detail before it could support the formation of a new Trust.
Share issue: There had been significant changes to the rules since the last share issue and there were now two options available: an exempt offer which would have a ceiling of Euro 2.5m (approx £1.75m) and restricted to one issue in any 12 month period or a Full Prospectus which would not have any financial limit but would require extensive documentation. External legal costs for the former were estimated at £15k as against at least £50k for the latter. The decision had therefore been taken to opt for the exempt offer.
Direct fund-raising: The Trust would be funding a professional fund-raiser to secure corporate donations over an 18 month to 2 year timeframe. A volunteer Bluebell support team would be required similar to that put in place for Operation Undercover and with a number of people have already offered their services. The aim of the fund raising programme is to ensure a continual stream of monetary income over the next few years.
Membership: Membership numbers currently stand at 10,107. The recent postal strike had caused a lot of problems with the delivery of Bluebell News which was caught up in the backlog.
Society Finance: Subscription / donation income for the year to October was £117k, around 2.4% lower than in 2006 (£120k). £118k had been transferred to the plc as a loan and the Committee resolved to continue this arrangement in 2008. The Committee also resolved to convert £1m of the existing loan into shares before the end of the financial year. Post meeting note: This has now been done.
Applications for Trust Funding: These were considered at the November meeting and, in an effort to improve communications, one of the Society's Trust Representatives (Jan Kozminski) attended this part of the meeting to hear the discussion. The Committee considered two requests and noted a third:
Horsted Keynes Platform 5 Canopy Restoration: There was a proposal from a member of the HK Canopy Gang for them to rebuild the canopy and renew the zinc sheeting. As the platform is in use, this would have to be done from a weatherproof scaffolding desk to protect the public underneath. The projected timescale for this work was up to 18 months. The Committee was appreciative of the offer but felt that it was not practical for the station to be disrupted for such a long period of time as, apart from anything else, this would have an affect on filming contracts etc. It would be preferable to get a contractor in so that the work could be done as quickly as possible.
Sheffield Park Platform 1: A proposal was tabled to approach the Trust to fund the rebuild of Platform 1 which was suffering from subsidence and displaced coping stones. The Committee was reminded that there was a long outstanding plan to install S&T cable ducts along the platform and there was also a need to take power across to the new building on the 'Woodpax' site. Both of these would have to be done before the platform could be resurfaced. The proposal also omitted the proposed canopy extension. This project was however outside the Trust's remit as it was clearly maintenance which should be carried out by the company and so could not be put forward. The Committee agreed however that this was a worthwhile aim and that the costs of doing the work and canopy extension should be established and built into the company's business plan.
LCDR Horse Box: The Committee was pleased to note that the Horse Box had been rescued by the Trust and thanked those involved. It agreed to ask the Trust to proceed with the restoration. There was a suggestion that we freeze all future applications to the Trust so that we can think about what needs funding and prioritise those needs. Significant Trust funds were required for Operation Undercover and other projects and we should not dilute the funds available for these.
Jan Kozminski reported back from the August Trust meeting. The Trust had funds of around £1.3m and had agreed to fund parts for Class 2 84030 (£3.7k), AV equipment for the C&W Viewing area (£15k), a morticer for the C&W (£1.5k) and agreed in principle to fund changes to the loco works infrastructure, subject to detailed costings being provided. Updates were provided on other on-going Trust projects. Jan was thanked for his attendance and input.
London Jack: The Museum Management Committee (MMC) had proposed that the funds collected by London Jack (the stuffed dog in the museum) should be used for its restoration instead of going to Woking Homes. The dog was in dire need of restoration and re-stuffing and a quote from a taxidermist had put this at £2k. The Committee felt that the money collected should continue to go to Woking Homes and that other sources should be found for the restoration costs. The MMC would no doubt welcome any gifts to offset the taxidermist costs.
AGM 2008: Trustees retiring by rotation were Charles Hudson, Russell Pearce and Nicholas Pryor and all announced that they would be seeking re-election. The Committee will be proposing a rule change (to take account of the creation of the MMC) and a subscription increase.
Operation Undercover: The project has made significant progress over the last few months and a planning application had been submitted to Lewes District Council. The proposal for a two road washout pit /maintenance shed on the site of the old shed and loco lobby had to be abandoned due to the costs of the foundations. Instead a new washout pit will be built on the site of loco lobby but parallel with the embankment so as to fit in the pointwork. The provision of a raised viewing platform within the running shed (to provide footplate access to stored locomotives at the north end) was proving problematic and it may not be possible to provide this under Operation Undercover. We were on course to meet the HLF deadline for submitting the Stage 2 application. The Committee had agreed the rebuilt canopy on Platform 2 would have Brighton style valancing instead of the present cut-down style, subject to gauge clearance.
Northern Extension: The planning application for the new station had been granted but included a number of conditions including a restriction on PA announcements (carried over from the 1985 Planning Appeal Decision) and hours of operation. A planning application to remove the latter condition has now been submitted and is currently out for consultation and due to be considered in December. Thanks were recorded to Nigel Longdon and his team for the work they were doing on the cattle creep south of the viaduct. We were currently trying to agree with West Sussex County Council the safety case for volunteers to work on the tip site to remove vegetation and repair fencing and drainage. Fencing had been erected around the station site but fencing between Bluebell and Network rail land was awaited. It was hoped that we would be given permission to remove some of the inert spoil north of Imberhorne Lane bridge so that the Ardingly embankment could be extended westwards.
Westward Extension: We had been approached by the urban developers involved in the town centre regeneration of Haywards Heath to find out what our likely requirements were for the station so that these could be taken into account for the redevelopment of the station. We had also been approached by Network Rail to see if we wanted to purchase Lywood Tunnel. It was suggested that the Society did not have an explicit policy to extend westwards, despite its presence in the Long Term Plan. Research of the archived minutes revealed that the decision to purchase the land in the first place was consequential on a decision that we would extend west at some point in the future and so it was sensible to safeguard the land. The wording in the LTP was intended to keep the focus on East Grinstead. Once that had been achieved (and we had drawn breath) we could look west.
Brighton Saloon: Prompting from the President had led to further discussion on the future prospects for the saloon. The Committee were sympathetic to his request but running and maintaining the existing fleet had to be the priority, particularly the Pullmans as they generated so much income. Restorations were taking longer and there was no prospect of fitting it into the workshop schedule for many years. There was no quick fix for the Saloon and the Committee felt that there was little option at the present time other than to leave it under tarpaulin. However, a new business plan was being prepared by the company and it may be possible to include this vehicle if we can source alternative funding and be confident that we have a deliverable restoration plan.
Memorials: There had been a number of problems with Memorials that had created some embarrassment for the railway and upset for the families concerned. A number of requests had been 'approved' by persons without ANY authority, such as benches and a plaque for 5034 being just some of them. The Committee agreed that we must have a strict, workable policy which would be communicated to all booking offices or points of customer contact. Currently we needed to avoid any more dedicated trees, shrubs, seats or plaques and we would refuse all such requests in the future. Scattering of ashes, either on the lineside or via the firebox would still be permitted as would entries in the Memorial Book, though it was accepted that at the moment, there was nowhere satisfactory to display this. However this would be explored. A new calligrapher has been sourced. In future, all requests MUST be channelled through the General Office and all special requests would be considered by the Society Committee and any unapproved memorials would be removed. It was also agreed to see if a memorial garden could be created north of Horsted Keynes on the east embankment.
Preservation Standards: Chris Saunders presented for discussion his proposals for remit and scope of the Preservation Standards sub-committee which would be charged with ensuring compliance with the Long term Plan and to seek to protect the stations from further developments or changes which detract from the period we are trying to represent. One outcome would be a Preservation Standards manual which would, amongst other things, include the correct colour specifications for painting the stations. There was a wide ranging discussion on this and concern expressed we would be seeking to commit the company or setting up the "Preservation Police". It was argued that these standards were aspirational and that where changes were being made or new developments planned, then we should seek to do them correctly and to a higher standard. It was acknowledged that a good deal of pragmatism would be needed to begin with but the Committee was content this was a step in the right direction. Chris was congratulated on the work he had done so far.
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