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Summary of the Committee Meetings held during 2010

Internal Communication - not for publication

Despite best intentions, I never did get round to writing a summary after each Committee meeting, except for the January one. This is partly due to illness and subsequent inertia, but also because other commitments both on and off the railway coupled with a strange aversion to sitting in front of the computer for hours on end. So here's a brief round up of last year and a New Year's Resolution to try and get a summary out within two weeks of a meeting.

The Committee met on 8 occasions during the year with each meeting lasting around 21/2 to 3 hours. One or other or sometimes both of the two Society representatives to the Trust attended each meeting. Each meeting had a largely fixed agenda, covering Society Finance and Membership, reports from the company, specifically on Finance and Funding, but also the minutes of the last but one Board meeting. We also received regular reports on the Extension and Woodpax projects. Additional items, such as Youth Protection, requests to seek Trust funding, etc were added as necessary. The 50th anniversary also occupied the Committee, particularly in the months leading up to the August event. In between meetings, urgent items were discussed by email and the outcome recorded in the next set of minutes. So what did we discuss?

Society Finance: We received regular reports from Ian Aitken (Treasurer) on the current state of Society subscription income, donations, Deferred Shares Scheme income, Land Purchase Fund donations and a record of cash transferred to the plc. Subscription income during the year was less than in 2009, mainly because 2009 included a lot of the newly introduced five year subscription rate. By the November meeting, subscription/donation income was £145k against £175k in 2009.

Deferred Share Scheme income to November was £63k and £7k for the long running Land Purchase Fund. The Society also received a generous donation from the Wainwright C Class Preservation Society of 2,000 shares in the plc: these shares had originally been given by the railway to the WCCPS as a thank you for returning 592 to traffic.

At the November meeting, the Society budget for 2011 was tabled. The budget, including the cost of Bluebell News, equated to £8.25 per member. Bluebell News is delivered to the door for less than £5 per annum.

Membership: Regular reports on membership numbers were received from Gerry Brown until he stood down in May and thereafter from new Membership Secretary Don Brewer. Membership has continued to hover above the 10,000 mark but by November it was barely above the threshold. Junior/Student numbers continue to fall and this does need to be addressed as they are the future of the railway. To that end, we have been liaising with the 9F Club with a view to setting up a Junior Board and perhaps involving them in the recruitment of young members.

Finance: Regular reports were given by David Foale in the level of company income. Caution was the watchword for much of the year but the runaway success of the 50th anniversary event and the subsequent boost to trading coupled with several filming contracts gave us more confidence. As always, that was never an excuse for a spending spree as additional expenditure was already planned for 2011 and Santa bookings were trailing behind 2009, perhaps indicating that our visitors were tightening their belts. Although we were in good stead by the end of November, the impact of two weekends of snow and ice hit us hard.

Funding: Roger Kelly provided a detailed report at each meeting showing how much had been raised from donations, grants etc and what efforts were being made to secure additional funding. In his report for November, we were told that £613k had been raised since 1st January towards the Northern Extension and a further £39k for other projects such as the Museum fit-out, carriage restoration and the conversion of MK 1 4941 for wheelchair access.

Requests for Trust Funding: During the year, the Committee considered five requests to seek funding from the Bluebell Railway Trust. The first was a proposal to improve the loco works heating so as to provide a more consistent and cleaner heat source. This was subsequently deferred to be included with the proposed changes to the workshop to install a new floor above the machine shop. Additional funding was sought for custom made bolts and professional signwriting for P Class 323. A bid to secure funding to acquire two overhead cranes for the C&W was also approved but sadly, one of these was damaged in the fire at Horsted Keynes. Match funding was sought for Coach 4941 so as to bring our funds up to the level required to secure match funding from another charity. Finally, match funding was sought to take forward to the planning stage the proposal to extend the C&W Works. All of these requests were subsequently approved by the Trust.

Ardingly: A proposal to develop a policy for Ardingly [in accordance with Rule 3(b)], for eventual inclusion in the Society's Long Term Plan, was submitted to the Society Committee for discussion in January but the Directors didn't want us to discuss it, arguing that it was outside our remit. Although this was set aside for discussion at a later date, subsequent events have largely overtaken the issue. Hansons (the current occupiers of the Network Rail owned site) submitted a planning application to install a larger road stone plant which would cut across the formation of the protected route to Haywards Heath. Objections were duly lodged and after many months of discussions, a revised proposal was submitted to the County Council which includes provision for slight diversion of the trackbed across the site at such time as we are ready to extend eastwards.

4 VEP No 3417: This unit has spent much of its time with us under cover at Eastleigh, thanks to the exceptional generosity of Bruce Knights, from where it also had an outing to Swanage for their Diesel Gala. An offer had been made to purchase the unit and transfer it to the Mid Norfolk Railway and this offer was due to be considered in conjunction with an embryonic proposal from the Southern Electric Traction Group which was largely dependent on the unit remaining at Eastleigh. In the event, we were told that the electric sidings & shed at Eastleigh were being relinquished and thus unit would not return to Eastleigh after its return to East Grinstead in September. In the meantime, the NMR had secured one of the 'Lymington' CIGs and interest in acquiring the VEP appears to have waned. Since then the unit has been stored on the viaduct or in the station, apart from a short visit to Tonbridge Yard during the last lot of spoil removal, and is certainly showing the effects of outside storage. The unit will shortly be departing to Bournemouth for temporary undercover storage.

Youth Protection: occupied the Committee's time periodically as we tried to get to grips with the evolving legislation. At the same time there was a sudden realisation by the Government that the legislation as passed and being implemented would result in virtually every adult having to be CRB checked, at a huge cost. Whilst the Government was busy back-peddling, the Society and Company agreed a Youth Protection policy that sought to strike a balance between the need to put in the right sort of safeguards for the benefit of all sides, whilst at the same time not discouraging young people from becoming involved in the railway - they are after all the future.

Preservation Standards: This has long been a mythical beast but in September, the Committee took the brave step of approving the remit of the Preservation Standards sub-committee, under the chairmanship of Chris Saunders. Chris has been working tirelessly on this and has also been working with the Woodpax project to make the platform frontage and interiors look as authentic as possible. One of the first aims of the sub-committee will be to designate 'protected areas' around the stations so as to ensure that future developments or alterations do not inflict further damage on the atmosphere we are trying to create. Some may argue that Sheffield Park Station is already beyond redemption but it is hoped that the new Platform 2 buildings and environment will show what can be achieved if the right approach is taken. We can do nothing about the grey warehouses on the Sheffield Park Industrial Estate and we have tried to minimise the impact of the new shed by cladding it in sympathetic colours. An LBSC brick build shed was never going to be on the cards as it would not have secured Lottery Funding. So, like the SVR's Lottery-funded carriage shed at Kidderminster, we have had to do the best we can with modern materials.

Memorial Garden: The Memorial Garden at Horsted Keynes came up at rather more meetings than you might expect, partly due to use needing to make a decision on the type of memorial blocks but also the tricky issue of funding the costs. It was not seen as a priority for spending despite the fact that once it was set up, it would help to generate legacies and donations to other parts of the railway. Eventually funding was secured and the work was due to be completed before the end of January 2011.

Sub-Committees: During the year, minutes of the various sub-committees (rolling stock, retail, infrastructure) and accounts from some fund raising groups, such as Friends of Kingscote, were received and discussed as necessary.

Gavin Bennett
General Secretary


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