Published:1st July 2016
Braintree District Council’s Planning Committee has approved applications for a new car park and entrance facilities, skills centre and expanded museum submitted by The Colne Valley Railway Preservation Society (CVRPS). This local authority support for CVRPS, a registered charity, offers hope that the railway does have a future at its Castle Hedingham site.
In early 2015 Colne Valley Railway announced it expected the coming season to be its final year of operating over the mile-long line on the trackbed of the old Colne Valley & Halstead Railway after its Australian landlords gave notice the railway no longer fitted its plans to develop the site ( http://www.rail.co.uk/rail-news/2015/colne-valley-enters-last-year-of-operating/ ).
However, the site owner has significantly modified this view and now considers that the railway and his prospective development can happily co-exist and suggested the deal presently on offer to CVRPS. The Charity supports this view and instead of searching for a new location for the railway CVRPS has switched its efforts into planning for a future at the Castle Hedingham site.
“We are extremely pleased with this endorsement by Braintree District Council’s Planning Committee and are grateful for the hard work and help supplied by the Planning Officers,” commented CVR chairman, Paul Lemon. “We are near to completion with our plans to take the railway forward on a secure footing and expect to make a formal announcement soon.”
The Charity intends to develop the site as a social history museum explaining the development of the communities along the upper Colne Valley and the role the original Railway played in this development. This will include the retention of the existing demonstration railway and other facilities.
In 2014 CVRPS obtained a stage 1 pass from the Heritage Lottery Fund to develop the detailed plans, including these planning applications, in order to submit a full stage 2 application. The decision on the stage 2 application is awaited and may be known within weeks.
The Colne Valley Railway was founded in 1973 as a private venture. The original owners controversially sold the site to Australian purchasers in 2006. The Colne Valley Railway Preservation Limited, initially formed in 1974, was converted into a registered charity and continued to operate the railway on a leasehold basis.
The objective of the registered charity Colne Valley Railway Preservation Limited is: “To advance the education of the public with regard to a history of (the central area of) East Anglia and the Colne Valley & Halstead Railway (and its successors) in particular by maintenance of a museum and by restoring and operating a demonstration railway, operations, equipment and engineering crafts”.
Announcement 15 months ago that the line’s landlords had given notice that the railway no longer formed part of his plans for the site came as a shock to the society and the heritage railway world at large. Fortunately, while the railway’s future is not yet secure, things seem to be heading in the right direction and there are grounds for optimism that the CVR will continue with a sound long-term outlook.