Council's sale of land to popular Norfolk railway stalls
PUBLISHED: 16:16 16 January 2019 | UPDATED: 08:22 17 January 2019
Archant Norfolk 2016
Owners of a picturesque miniature railway in Norfolk have been told they must wait until March to discover if their bid to take control of land around it can get back on track.
In 2017, it was agreed that the Bure Valley Railway could purchase land surrounding its lines from Broadland District Council, land it currently leases from the council. However, the deal has stalled of late.
As it stands, while the popular tourist attraction owns the rails the locomotives run on, the land surrounding it is leased from the district council.
In 2011 it was suggested Bure Valley Railway (1991) Ltd buy the land from the council, meaning it would take on responsibility for the fences and footpath that run alongside it.
After years of negotiation, terms were agreed in 2017, but the deal’s completion was dependent on a light railway order being transferred from the council to the railway. However, delays in this process at central government level have held up the deal, meaning it was called back to committee.
In discussions held behind closed doors, the council’s cabinet decided to defer its decision a further two months, leaving the railway on tenterhooks.
Ian Kinghorn, one of the railway’s directors, said: “While we have always had a very positive relationship with the council, we feel their performance has not been what it has been in the past, so owning the land would mean we’d have more control over improving it.
“After all, if we are going to invest heavily in an asset, we would rather it be our asset than somebody else’s.”
Since taking over the railway in 1991, the company has cleared more than £900,000 in debts and invested millions in the attraction.
A Broadland spokesman said: “We appreciate the important benefits which the Bure Valley Railway brings to the Broadland economy both in terms of jobs and tourism.
“When we consider the sale of council owned land we must always ensure we have kept in mind our duty to manage all our assets to maximise the benefit for our residents.
“In this instance, as circumstances have changed over time, we must take the opportunity to explore further options regarding the asset.
“As a result the decision was brought back to cabinet, and has now been deferred, so we can ensure we make the right decision for Broadland.”