180 – Chasewater Railway Museum Bits & Pieces
From Chasewater News Spring 1995 – Part 3
From the Boardroom
Lichfield District Council and the Railway
By David Bathurst – Chairman
It is a little over 12 months since Lichfield District Council (LDC) assumed responsibility for Chasewater in succession to Walsall MBC. Maybe now is the opportune time to reflect on the Railway’s relations with our new landlords during this period.
It is generally recognised that LDC has inherited an area of recreational land and some very modest amenities where ‘investment’ had become an unknown concept. Whilst Walsall MBC must accept some responsibility for this state of affairs, it is however a fact that the plans for the Birmingham Northern Relief Road (BNRR) have prevented any serious attempt to maximise the commercial and leisure potential of the area. The BNRR may or may not happen and whichever way it goes, it will have a major impact on both the Park and the Chasewater Railway. Until a decision is made and the first contract has been let, Chasewater will inevitably remain in limbo.
It is in this context the Board has made a number of proposals to LDC and it is similarly in this context that LDC has been unable to offer anything other than a series of courteous and sympathetic acknowledgements.
This does not mean that LDC is sitting back on Chasewater issues. The council recently approved a document on Chasewater’s future with a view to inviting public participation and consultation. The Railway is awaiting a copy of the document with interest and will certainly be wishing to make representations. It will also be interesting to see whether the results of the Municipal Elections on Thursday May 4th 1995 will have any effect on LDC’s policies towards the future of Chasewater.
For the information of members, the following is an indication of the matters currently with LDC, awaiting decision.
Presentation to the Council
The Railway has indicated a willingness to make formal presentation to LDC’s Leisure Services Committee to define more clearly the current and potential roles of Chasewater Railway within the context of Chasewater Park.
Lichfield District Local Plan
The Railway has submitted a formal objection to the Draft Local Plan. The Railway wishes to see an additional policy added to the section related to Chasewater, namely “The District Council will continue to make provision for the development of the Chasewater Railway”.
The Railway will be represented at the Public Local Enquiry which commences on 5th September 1885 and which is expected to last 8 weeks.
Extension to AngleseyWharf
The Railway has asked LDC to give planning protection to the alignment of a possible extension to our operational line, to Anglesey Wharf. Unfortunately the proposed line of the Burntwood By-pass means that the Railway extension would need to intrude into two SSSIs (Sites of Special Scientific Interest). This could represent a major threat to the plans for extending our operational line.
At the same time the Railway has invited LDC to examine the land ownership issues and to agree, in principle, to the grant of any necessary leases.
BNRR (M6 Toll): Brownhills West Station
The Railway has asked LDC to honour a commitment made by Walsall MBC to provide an alternative site for the relocation of Brownhills West Station and associated facilities should this be necessary because of construction of the BNRR.
Causeway/Norton Lakeside Station
LDC has been invited to assist in undertaking finishing works on the Causeway where the Railway has neither the expertise nor finance to carry out a substantial scheme of environmental improvement. In particular the concealment of materials at the water’s edge by proper treatment works could well bring about a significant improvement in appearance.
In a related proposal, LDC has been invited to ’adopt’ the footpath across the Causeway and in the vicinity of Norton Lakeside Station within a co-ordinated approach to access the north shore area of Chasewater. This would not involve the footpaths becoming formal public footpaths but would nevertheless be of benefit in a wide range of senses.
LDC has been asked to participate in some tangible form of official opening of the extension across the Causeway and opening of Norton Lakeside Station.
LDC has been made aware of the Railway’s concern regarding the current leases which may not be sufficient to enable the Railway to gain access to finance potentially available through various funding regimes (see also below).
LDC has been asked to undertake a survey, in conjunction with the Railway’s surveyors, for the purpose of identifying the physical boundaries of the land held on lease by the Railway. Significant changes in the landscape at the easterly end of our line makes it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to pinpoint the extent of our lease without resort to modern surveying technology.
LDC has been asked to consider making a deemed application for outline planning permission for the provision of covered accommodation at Brownhills West adjacent to the shed compound. The close proximity of houses might represent some difficulty although this would be removed if the BNRR were to proceed as the houses referred to would be demolished.
If the Railway were to seek National Heritage Lottery Funding for this project, it would need greater security of tenure (that is to say, a freehold interest or a long leasehold interest in the land concerned. As an alternative, an application for Lottery funding could be made as a collaborative application between LDC and the Railway. LDC have been asked to consider the implications.
In view of the fact that Lottery funding provides a contribution only towards cost and that a partnership approach is essential, LDC have agreed to enquire into what other grant regimes may be available to help the Railway to construct this essential covered accommodation.
Light Railway Order
Walsall MBC actually made a number of applications in the 1980s to the Department of Transport for a Light Railway Order. The applications were so flawed that they were eventually withdrawn and put into abeyance. The Railway has invited LDC to pick up the pieces and to seek the modern day equivalent of a LRO on the Railway’s behalf.
From this summary, members will surely form an appreciation of the importance of a good relationship between the Railway and our landlords. Each of the items mentioned has generated considerable correspondence and has involved lengthy meetings with LDC Officers. We must not allow ourselves to become impatient, particularly in view of the uncertainties surrounding the BNRR. Operating a Railway involves a wide range of activities not generally known to the membership and where it is necessary for a highly trained professional and mature approach to be taken by all concerned. There can be no certainty as to the response of LDC in relation to any or all of the matters which are currently on the table with them. What is certain, however, is that the Council is committed to the development of Chasewater Park and, once the BNRR issue is determined, there must inevitably be significant changes on the horizon.