After recently publishing a news story on the move of Blackpool Brush car 622, British Trams Online was contacted by Theo Dunne, who is the Managing Director of Heatons Engineering Group. This company purchased the Brinwell Road premises occupied by several Lancastrian Transport Trust owned vehicles in December 2012, and Mr. Dunne has very kindly supplied us exclusively with further details of what has really happened over the past few months.
When the building was sold late last year, the new owners arranged a lease arrangement with the Lancastrian Transport Trust for a period of three years, which included a six months notice termination agreement acceptable to both parties in goodwill. This was signed in January 2013; however, by April, the LTT had given the required six months notice that they wished to terminate this lease arrangement. It was subsequently agreed between the two organisations that the LTT would clear out the Brinwell Road premises by 7th October 2013. This now explains why Standard 143 and Railcoach 279 were returned to Rigby Road depot in October, ahead of some of the trams which remain in outside storage, and also why Brush car 622 was moved to temporary storage at the same site following completion of its recent repaint. Incidentally, we now understand that HEG had allowed 622 to stay put until this work was completed, despite it passing the agreed deadline for removal of LTT-owned assets from their property. It was also felt that, due to various grinding works being carried out within the building, it would be unwise to have a newly painted tramcar on site, hence its eventual transfer to Rigby Road.
We have also recently received information which suggests that, although 622 has been fully repainted on the outside, no work on the interior has been carried out as yet. The tram was supposed to receive an internal refurbishment, including the fitting of improved lighting and heating to make it more suitable for its new role as a school classroom, but it is now claimed that this was never undertaken despite this being a condition of the sale of the car. The school are now understood to be working towards a solution which will hopefully allow 622 to be used for its intended purpose soon, and some discussion has already taken place between some of the parties involved regarding transportation of the tram to its new home and completion of the outstanding work on the interior.
As at 4th April (when the LTT gave notice of the lease being terminated), the charity had already incurred rent arrears of a hefty £11,671 which continued to escalate over the months that followed. Unfortunately, legal action was eventually required to get some response from the LTT. Payment schedules were later agreed to reduce the arrears, but it took some time before the requested payments were made. In addition to this, the LTT have made no real effort to assist with the transitional period, leaving various vehicles as well as numerous parts and other assorted rubbish lying around the building. In Mr Dunne’s own words; “the task of removing the above has been carried out by H.E. staff in order to gain access to carry out electrical overhaul of cranes and installation of electrical distribution systems which are essential to our operations. This remains an ongoing issue”.
Mr Dunne concluded: “H.E.G. has NOT evicted L.T.T. from the premises – in fact H.E.G has bent over backwards to accommodate L.T.T. in respect of the trams in the premises. The current situation is that one tram is still in the works and it has been agreed that it will be removed no later than 15 December 2013. If however this latest agreement is not adhered to, H.E.G. has given notice to the Trustees of L.T.T. that H.E.G. will invoke clause 4:6:1 of the lease in respect of property or equipment left on the premises and will invite tenders for the disposal of the vehicle to cover outstanding rents due.” The tram in question is Coronation 663, the sole remaining tram at Brinwell Road. Clearly, Heatons Engineering Group are quite within their rights to dispose of this tram as they see fit in the event that it remains on site after the stated deadline of December 15th, and the fact that it has been allowed to stay this long shows the company are anything but keen to put the future of historic tramcars in danger.
On a brighter note, it has been confirmed by HEG that the majority of the money owed to them by the LTT has now been repaid, and so hopefully any outstanding payments will be made shortly and arrangements made for the removal of 663 to a safe new home.
We would like to thank Mr Dunne and Heatons Engineering Group for providing the above information, and for contacting British Trams Online to give a true picture of recent developments. Clearly, the LTT’s situation is now far worse than any of us could have possibly imagined, and it seems increasingly unlikely that this organisation will have any future in the transport preservation movement as their public image continues to decline. However, Mr Dunne was keen to inform us that his direct involvement with LTT members who continued to work at the Brinwell Road site has been generally positive, and he is clearly sympathetic towards the remaining trustees and volunteers, and their attempts to resolve their problems. Hopefully, arrangements will soon be made for the removal of Coronation car 663, and both organisations can put this difficult period of time behind them as a new year approaches.