Norfolk Orbital Railway – Update August 2021

First of all the Trustees of the Melton Constable Trust, wish to send their profound thanks to all of those who have donated towards the cost of securing the next section of track bed at Holt.  The response, following our last update in February, was very encouraging indeed and has made it possible for us to initiate the final purchase.

This is just an interim message.  We expect to give you fuller news in the coming weeks.  We have now met all the requirements of the agreement under which we are buying the land and the purchase process is currently in the hands of the solicitors.  Inevitably that is taking time.

The precise area of land has been agreed with the seller and preparations have been made for fencing. 

Quite a large part of the funding that has been subscribed by supporters, including many new ones, is in the form of interest free loans.  It, therefore, continues to be vital that we raise more money by donations.  After this purchase, our track bed purchase fighting fund will be depleted and it will be essential to rebuild the Trust’s resources.  Ongoing donations from supporters will, therefore, be crucial in order to take the Trust on to the next phase of route acquisition.

Attached is the donation form, providing for standing orders, single donations and Giftaid.  If you are a taxpayer and complete the Giftaid part of the form the government adds 25% to the value of your donation.  Donations should be sent to:

David Bill MBE, 8a,Thornfield Way, Hinckley, Leics., LE10 1BE.

We can all be happy to know that the prospect of acquiring more of the route needed for the railway and enhanced use of social media have significantly increased the number of supporters of the Norfolk Orbital Railway Project.

OTHER  NEWS  IN  BRIEF  –  Bridge  1711

We have not neglected the County School to Fakenham part of the route.  Supporters will know that the Trust already owns a substantial section with two refurbished bridges at Fakenham.  An  initial approach has now been made to the owner of a further section, as yet without result.  As usual, we need to persevere.

Serious news did appear a few months ago when it was learned that Highways England, which has been given responsibility for redundant railway bridges, intended to demolish or infill a great number of these structures; 134 in all across the country.  One of these was to be bridge 1711 on the section of route that we need between County School and Fakenham. 

Nationally Highways England had undertaken no consultation with many interested parties, including a number of rail revival schemes and other potential users of routes.  In the case of bridge 1711, we established that Highways England had not even told the current owner of the track bed that passes under bridge 1711.

Highways England was using emergency powers which it claimed meant that it did not need planning permission.  To put it mildly, this was highly questionable.  The cost of demolition and infilling was going to be great and, in many cases, higher than the cost of sensible maintenance.      There is little evidence of bridges being in dangerous condition.  Often Highways England’s own assessment shows that they are sound.

Bridge 1711 simply has an existing weight restriction because it is on a small lane and was never intended to carry the heaviest vehicles.

Supporters may know that a national campaign has been launched to stop this highly destructive move by Highways England.  You can read about it here:

 Petition · Highways England: Protect our railway heritage from Highways England’s wrecking ball · Change.org

Our Project Officer, Paul Young, acted immediately to bring the threat to bridge 1711 to our notice.  He and the Trust’s Chairman, Trevor Bailey, sought support from a number of sources including MPs Jerome Mayhew and George Freeman who raised the issue with Highways England and the County Council.  After much work, the upshot is that the County Council has undertaken to implement a physical width restriction on the bridge which will prevent its use by large vehicles.  This is currently being specified by the County Council for agreement with Highways England who then, we trust, will leave the bridge alone.  We might suggest that they even consider painting the ironwork!

The situation will, however, continue to need checking to ensure that there is no back sliding.

We are very grateful for the support we have received over this matter.

LORD  WALPOLE

With great sadness we have to tell you that the Trust’s Patron, Lord Walpole, passed away on 8th May this year.

Robin was a firm supporter of our project and of the environmental benefits of railways generally.  As a member of the House of Lords, he did not hesitate to take up our cause directly with the Transport Minister when the opportunity arose.

The Trustees have sent their sympathies and thanks for Robin’s support to Lady Walpole and her family.

Melton Constable Trustees: Trevor Bailey CF, FRHistS, David Bill MBE and Derek Haynes

If you would like to make a donation to the Melton Constable Trust, then please download our donation form, thank you:

Land Purchase at Holt update

The land purchase at Holt is progressing and is now with the solicitors. Earlier in the week volunteers were on site maintaining the vegetation on the existing section of land and surveying the new section. More details will be released in due course.