Redundancy fears and rent waived at top tourist attraction in ‘dire straits’

The Bure Valley Railway is in dire straits and risks closing for good. Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

The Bure Valley Railway is in dire straits and risks closing for good. Picture: MARK BULLIMORE - Credit: Archant

A Norfolk tourist attraction is in “dire straits” and risks closing for good, due to the financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic, it has been revealed.

Pictured, Andrew Barnes of Bure Valley Railway. Picture: BVR

Pictured, Andrew Barnes of Bure Valley Railway. Picture: BVR - Credit: Archant

The Bure Valley Railway (BVR), a north Norfolk heritage line, is facing potential closure due to the financial effects of the lockdown, councillors have been told.

The railway could also have to lay staff members off if it is unable to reopen this summer.

Broadland councillors have agreed to waive the railway’s rent payments until September and to work on a reopening strategy.

READ MORE: Business paying £30,000 in insurance to include disease cover has claim rejected

A report ahead of Broadland District Council’s (BDC) cabinet meeting revealed the railway had requested its rent be waived “for the whole of this financial year”.

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It came after the council had already agreed to waive the railway’s rent until July.

The railway pays BDC £30,000 annual rent and would have owed £22,455 in business rates - but the firm has been given full relief, in addition to receiving a £25,000 Covid-19 support grant, and furloughing some of its staff.

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At the meeting, Phil Courtier, the council’s director of place, said he had spoken to the railway about its current position, and said: “They are in dire straits.

“They are in a position where they are considering their future.

“The waiving of rent will have significant benefit for them. They are hoping they can reopen on July 4, but it’s not clear yet.”

READ MORE: Council’s sale of land to popular Norfolk railway stalls

He said there would come a point where the railway would not be able to recoup its costs. He added: “That would mean they have to make redundancies with the exception of some engineers.”

Council leader Shaun Vincent said the council had asked to see the business’ reopening plan.

And Lana Hempsall added: “I’m slightly puzzled why they are not, with the rest of the hospitality businesses, gearing up for July 4.”

She said: “Do they need support to get going, rather than thinking it’s not going to happen? Do they need some optimism from us?”

Mr Courtier said as people could not be in close spaces, BVR would not see the same returns.

And finance cabinet member Trudy Mancini-Boyle said the council would have to see the reopening plans to ensure it was “the best use of funds”.

While Jo Copplestone said the railway offered “a huge amount of social benefit and impact on local businesses with the added value”.

She asked the council to extend waiving the railway’s rent until September, which was agreed to.

READ MORE: Railway threatened to take council to watchdog over upkeep ‘dereliction’

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