A quick update on where we are with the campaign, and what’s been happening over the past few weeks.
At our last meeting in December, a committee was appointed to represent the group. This comprises Alasdair Page (Chairman), Rodney Cox (Vice Chair), David Sheppard (Secretary), Alan Johnson (Online/Planning) and Andrew Roaden (Press Liaison). Andy Stevens will act as Treasurer once mechanisms to receive funding are in place.
As you will know, the planning consultation ended on December 12th. Following an impressive and powerful response from us all, the Dartmoor National Park Authority requested a meeting with us to view the current SDR facility at Buckfastleigh and to survey the potential formation for an extension to Ashburton. This meeting was held on 15 December, attended by Dan Janota (DNPA Senior Planner) and a representative of Buckfastleigh Town Council. SDR representatives gave an insight into the business and community aspects of the railway which impressed the visitors, and gave a wider perspective on what heritage railway activity in Ashburton might bring to the town.
DNPA have now encouraged us to progress a business plan which formally sets out our proposals, and how we intend to finance them, for a sustainable use of the Chuley Road site. This will be considered as part of their planning review. Alan Johnson has been painstakingly progressing this over Christmas, and our draft document is now 75% complete. We hope to have this finished shortly, and ready for you to view at our next meeting (date to be announced here shortly).
We have instigated meetings with both Buckfastleigh and Ashburton Town Councils. We met with the planning body of the former on 5th January, and discussed the likely impact of increased activity in Ashburton on the town of Buckfastleigh. We gained their support.
Last night (13th January), we gave a 10 minute presentation to Ashburton Town Council. This comprised a formal introduction to our aims, a discussion of our proposals and some facts and figures that quantify what heritage railway activity in Ashburton might bring to the town’s economy. We received a very warm response, and the Council is keen to meet with us again and to work with us on our business plan. Representatives from the DNPA approached us afterwards to say they had been impressed by our pitch, and it looks likely that we will be invited to give a similar presentation to their members in due course.
Finally for now, just a word on some of the statements of support we have received from major local and national bodies. Both the SDR Asssociation and SDR Trust have confirmed their full support for our aims. Both are being tremendously supportive in practical terms, too, attending meetings and providing expertise and wisdom to the cause. The Heritage Railway Association have been made aware of the campaign, and Andrew Scott (former Director of the NRM) has voiced the HRA’s support. The Transport Trust, a major national charity headed by Lord McAlpine, has also written to offer its full support, and contributed a very powerful letter to the DNPA consultation accordingly. We’ve also received interest from local MPs.
It’s a tribute to the passion and enthusiasm of everybody on this page and beyond that we’ve managed to influence the planning process at this late stage, and have won such high level support. We must not lose any momentum. Please keep an eye on this page for our next meeting date, where we hope to be able to talk through the next stages of the plan in detail.