New lease secures future of railway
THE future of a local heritage attraction is set to be secured with the agreement of a new
65-year lease over part of the Bristol to Bath Railway Path.
The stretch in Bitton, which includes the popular railway station and track, has been occupied by Avon Valley Railway Heritage Trust since the 1970s, with the council having granted an initial 20-year lease of the site in 1982. But since its expiry in 2002, the agreement has been on a year-to-year basis.
The charity is dedicated to restoring steam to the Avon Valley and has re-laid three miles of track and restored a locomotive and carriages. It welcomes more than 80,000 visitors each year.
Following negotiations with the Trust, South Gloucestershire Council worked to broker a new 65-year lease that gives future stability to the attraction.
Now only requiring formal acceptance from the Trust, it also means they will be in a position to apply for funding which will progress plans to further develop existing facilities.
Bitton and Oldland Common councillor Erica Williams said: “South Gloucestershire is an area rich with local history and it is important we preserve this wherever we can. The work put in by Avon Valley Railway Trust and their many volunteers to share that heritage with the communities around them, as well as tourists, is fantastic and it is great to know they will be around for a long time to come.”
Fellow councillor Paul Hughes added: “The Railway Path is a unique feature for our area, offering a lovely rural transport route that connects many of our communities, as well as being a popular outdoor location for people to exercise and be active. To continue offering a historic and educational aspect can only add to the value of this wonderful asset.”
Cllr Ben Burton, cabinet member for corporate resources said: “I am delighted that the council has been able to work towards this new lease with Avon Valley Railway Heritage Trust. We have an excellent working relationship with them and are fully supportive of their continued operation.”
An Avon Valley Railway Heritage Trust spokesman said: “We welcome the progress so far on the new lease and on its completion it will provide the necessary security of tenure in helping us to achieve our future plans.”