Popular mini steam engine rally cancelled in Thetford

An annual miniature steam engine rally which usually attracts hundreds of visitors has been cancelled.

Organised by the Charles Burrell Museum in Thetford, the event is a usual fixture in the Easter calendar and marks the opening of the museum, on Minstergate, for the summer season.

This year however there will be no rally following a decision by trustees to cancel the event because of 'bureaucratic' delays.

Manager of the museum Corinne Fulford said she had approached Breckland Council, which owns the land, seeking permission to hold the rally on its usual date of Easter Sunday in the Minstergate car park.

She was referred to property management company Innes England however who told her they would have to consult with their legal team.

After hearing nothing for some time, and, she stressed, repeated attempts to push for a response, the decision was made to cancel the rally to allow enough time to inform people of the change of plan.

Ms Fulford said the decision had not been taken lightly and added: 'It's about a duty of care to the people who come with their engines and to the public. 'The trouble is we can get up to 50 people with their engines coming along from all over the country and they have to be able to get organised. 'If it's going to be successful you've also got to be able to promote it and there are only so many weeks to do this effectively. We could have had all these people booking into rooms and then at the last minute cancelled it, which would have been worse.'

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She add that in previous years the rally had gone ahead with verbal agreement from Innes England, but this year Ms Fulford said she was told she would need to complete a formal agreement in writing which she believes would have cost a considerable amount of money. A licence for the event was also then requested. By this time the decision to cancel had already been taken.

Chris Lee, portfolio manager for The Co-operative Group's property division, and leaseholder of the car park on Minstergate, said: 'We asked the Easter parade organisers to submit a licence to cover the holding of the event in our car park, this was requested in early March.

'Our managing agents received a proposed draft licence last Friday but we have now been informed by the organisers that this year's event will be cancelled. As the car park's leaseholder, we are required to obtain a licence for such events to ensure insurance cover and make sure we don't violate our position as leaseholder.'

The land is currently owned by Breckland Council after it was bought late last year. A council spokesman said it had done all it could to 'facilitate' talks between organisers and the leaseholders.

Chairman of the Charles Burrell Museum trustees, Richard Parrott, said: 'It's a great disappointment. It's been run for a great many years now. There have never been any problems with anybody before.'

The museum will now open on April 23 from 10am until 4pm, when the Queen Mary showmans engine will be in steam. It will then open every Tuesday from 10am until 2pm and the last Saturday of each month from 10am until 4pm.

The museum is also looking for volunteers. Anybody interested should contact Corinne Fulford on 07802 701911 or call into the tourist information Centre at the Leaping Hare offices on King Street.

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