LTT update: the truth about Brinwell Road

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.

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17 Responses to LTT update: the truth about Brinwell Road

  1. Chris says:

    Very Interesting. Once again massive Thank-you to Mr Dunne.

    Well done British Trams Online. A cracking piece of investigative journalism a major scoops delving deeper into murky waters of the Lancastrian Transport Trust. Glad to here the majority of the money has been repaid.

    But do hope that wasn’t the boat money (clearly stated on numerous occasions that the money was for 143). Theirs lots of questions many of which are never likely to be answered regarding the Lancastrian Transport Trust.

    But after a lot of personal attacks on BTO Staff (who do this for free for us) Id like to say well done. Good well researched piece. Am sure Higgs (or other trustees) are free to publish a response if they wish on here.

  2. Frank Gradwell says:

    Well its blindingly obvious where the money for 605 (233) went now!

  3. Greg Mason says:

    Gareth/ Andrew,

    Agree with Chris, a first class piece of investigation.

    Having followed the developing story of 622′s return to Rigby Rd, I have had an increasing sense of alarm at the damage the LTT saga has done to the tram preservation movement and its reputation. In addition to the financial hurt Mr Dunne of HEL has had to take by not being paid his due rent, he will have had to absorb the costs of paying his people to clear the mass of tram and bus detritus from his building before he could even start operations. To add insult to injury, he has presumably had to pay the legal costs of trying to recover his money. I am pleased for him that the majority of the outstanding debt has been paid, but I’m less optimisitic “the remaining payments will be made soon”.

    The situation with 622′s sale to Anchorsholme school is also worrying. I recall the publicity in late 2012 of the great initiative for LTT’s commercial arm CBNW to supply the redundant tram to the school, painted in a representation of Tigeriffic colours. The interior would be fitted out as a classroom with lighting and connections suitable for a classroom in the 21st century. 622 was promised for Easter, and here we are in mid-November with the tram delivered to Rigby Rd, to say the least unfinished! In fact all that seems to have been carried out is an external paint job, no panel replacement, minor accident damage from service days still evident and the interior as withdrawn. According to Andrew’s report, the school are now left holding the baby trying to find a solution. What must they think of the preservation community? As mentioned by someone else, perhaps as the sponsor of the initiative, Councillor Williams can enlighten us on how much has been paid by the school and Blackpool ratepayers for a long delayed paint job. Interesting to note that LTT seems to have removed the facility to look at historical items from their blog site, so it doesn’t seem possible to check on what the original commitment to Anchorsholme school was – is this just coincidence?

    The most worrying aspect of the unfolding story is the true state of LTT finances. As mentioned may times by other correspondents, it is a charity, and a charity cannot legally continue to function if it is insolvent. The LTT trustees must surely be aware that they run the risk of being accused of negligence if they allow their insolvent charity to continue to function, and they could be personally liable for the debts of the organisation incurred through their negligence.

    Like most of us I’m glad for Mr Dunne that he has had at least some of his company’s debt repaid. But to the observer it does seem extraordinary that LTT can sudenly out of the blue find the money. It seems too much of a coincidence that this has coincided with the sale of Boat 233 and (possibly!) sponsorship money for 663 restoration. Has the money been used to pay debts. Worse still, has it as someone suggested, been used to pay the wages bill of CBNW, reportedly also struggling?

    To repeat what has said before, the LTT as a charity has a legal duty to give full disclosure on its financial affairs, and we as enthusiasts and local and national taxpayers do want to know! One way or another we should be determined to find out. By the way the LTT submission of accounts to the Charity Commission is of today 76 days overdue!

    Although much of the above has been said by other correspondents, it does highlight the need for concerned people to take action. Those of us that live outside Blackpool are more limited in what they can do regarding Anchorlsholme school being let down. But those living in Blackpool can write or email Councillor Williams, or their own councillor, or both. Other interested parties can contact the Charity Commission. They are not always the quickest to act, but do take a dim view of late submissions and charities amassing debts, but continuing to function when insolvent.

    One thought for the beleagured LTT trustees. They could redeem their reputation to some extent by acknowledging the LTT is insolvent and cannot continue. The Charity Commission does give useful guidance on winding up a charity, and I think can give practical help. The LTT trustees could act responsibly by working with other bodies to try and place as many of their trams and buses with other organsiations that are in a better position to offer them safe and secure ongoing sanctuary. This would be a worthy and responsible act, although a difficult decision for them to take. However the decision could be taken out of their hands anyway if they continue to bury their heads in the sand.

    Oh – and a public apology might not go amiss!!

  4. Nigel Powton says:

    I would like to introduce myself as a newly appointed trustee of the LTT. As such I feel it necessary to provide my view of the LTT’ s future and offer some clarity around several of the points raised of late.

    Firstly the outstanding debt to HEG in respect of rent on Brinwell Road has now been paid in its entirety. Secondly there is no threat to the future of 663 which is scheduled to leave Brinwell Road in December and will join the other historic trams at Rigby Road. With regard to the remaining trams in outside storage we are currently formulating plans to arrange their transportation to Rigby Road and as such securing their future. 622 has been temporarily located to Rigby Road as Anchorsholme School are not yet in a position to take the tram as the land that has been earmarked for it has not yet been prepared and as such we saw it necessary to arrange secure storage during this interim period.

    I would also like to make it clear that the rumours surrounding the Trust’s “insolvency” are not true. There is a great deal of positive work going on within the Trust at the moment and we have a clear view of our aims going forward. What we have done is changed our emphasis and will be focussing our future strategy on our extensive bus collection with some exciting devolopments in 2014. It should be realised that with the formation of the new charitable trust the future of the Blackpool’s heritage tram fleet is in a stronger position than it has been for a long time and this has to be positive news all round.The LTT has an excellent working relationship with Blackpool Transport and because of this the future of these heritage vehicles is now assured.

    • Andrew Waddington says:

      Thanks Nigel for taking the time to comment. It is good to have some reassurance that plans are in place for 663′s future and hopefully it will work out well. However, I’m intrigued by your remark regarding emphasis on the LTT’s bus collection. Does this mean that you will be looking to dispose of trams 671 and 703, or will these two be retained for the foreseeable future?

    • Chris says:

      Excellent that somebody from the LTT taken time to respond. A few questions that the other current trustees have not answered.

      1) 605 £17,000 When will the money be transferred to the new Charitable Trust to complete the work on 143. Naturally at the time of the “controversial” to put it mildly sale it was made very clear that the money would go towards that Trams work..

      2)663 A Recent significant donation was made to pay towards restoration costs of said vehicle. If the car is moving will the money (and presumably the gift aid received) naturally head to the new owner if that is the members wish.

      3) 622 received a significant grant to complete a number of jobs Lighting & Heating Modification & Electrical modifications to transform the tram into a classroom as well of course the paint job. Naturally its clear the work completed to far is only partially completed. So naturally only part of the grant will have been used. Will the group be a) finishing it or b) returning the grant money.

  5. Greg Mason says:

    Nigel,

    Good to at last to have comment from the LTT. It’s also good to hear that a new face has joined the LTT Board of Trustees. Perhaps with some new blood we shall see a new spirit of openness and honesty from the LTT that seems to have been missing over the last few years.

    Your posting does have some positives such as the debt owed to Heaton Engineering has been paid in full, and 663′s future is secure and it will be moving to Rigby Rd. You are also assuring us a new strategy has been developed, there are some “exciting developments for 2014″, and the LTT is “not insolvent”. I’m sure you’ll forgive many of us for being sceptical at the moment. We have many times over the last few years heard so many positive statements and assertions from the LTT, but the reality has often proved to be very different. Can I respectfully request that now, as the new trustee, you have made a first positive step at giving the enthusiast community, you take us to the next stage? Here are some suggestions.

    Firstly please let us know when we can expect to see the overdue accounts posted on the Charity Commission website. We can then at least be assured the LTT is indeed solvent. Having just checked on the CC website, I have noted the LTT accounts are now 79 days overdue. Previous accounts starting at 2008 have been anything from 56 days to 113 days overdue, which I’m sure you will agree is a poor record. It’s surprising the CC have not taken steps already, as compliance to submit accounts on time is a legal requirement on any charity. The previous LTT accounts do raise some questions, and the Independent Examiner for the 2010 accounts raises a number of worrying points. The LTT publishing accounts as early as possible may help to answer some of these points, as well as providing much needed assurance that the LTT is indeed solvent.

    Relating to finance, you will have seen the questions raised about the money from the sale of Boat 233 and the sponsorship money for the restoration of 633. The suspicion is that this money has been used to settle the HEL debt, and not been used for the purposes stated. As a charity the LTT has a legal responsibility to be open with its finances to the public. Are you able to assure us on these specific points?

    On the point about exciting developments for 2014 I do of course wish you well. However I’m sure you would be the first to admit the LTT will have a huge task in convincing would-be donors and volunteers, pevious and new, your trust is a worthy cause. Without volunteers and regular funding from donors all the exciting plans in the world will come to nothing.

    This is not intended to reopen criticism of the LTT from the BTOL followers. Whatever needs to be said has been said, and I for one wish you well in trying to rebuild what to many of us seems a critically wounded organisation. It is of course in the hands of the LTT trustees including yourself as the new blood. At risk of repeating myself, giving honest and straigt answers, getting legal obligations up to date, and being factual in commitments is the way forward. Avoid the lavish promises and high level statements – we’ve heard all those before!!

    Good luck, and look forward to your response!

  6. Nigel Powton says:

    Our future strategy is to focus entrirely on our bus collection. We are therfore in the process of ensuring that both 671 and 703 both have a secure future but this will not be with the LTT.

    • Ken Walker says:

      Sad to hear that trams are not part of LTT’s future plans – does this mean that Beamish will be losing another of their major attractions I wonder? Only time will tell.
      Anyway as has been said thanks to Nigel for being open about the situation contrary to what has gone on before. He cannot be held to account for what has occurred before he has become involved as a trustee.

  7. Greg Mason says:

    Ken is right to pont out Nigel himself cannot be held accountable for the actions of his predecessors. However it should be remembered two of the three trustees listed on the Charity Commission have been in post some time, and one is a founder member of the LTT. This same individual is the sole director of CBNW listed on Companies House website. So although Nigel himself is new his colleagues are not. Presumably he is speaking on behalf of the LTT Board of Trustees, and not as an individual? Therefore he should be able to answer some of the detailed questions that have been posed,and which weren’t answered in his initial response.

    I’m sure most people in the tramway preservation movement are very relieved that the LTT trams are passing to other organisations, and the LTT will be concentrating on what Nigel describes as its “extensive bus collection”. I hope they will spare a thought for their fellows in the bus preservation movement, many of which are both bus and tram enthusiasts. They have witnessed the decline in the condition of the LTT preserved bus collection, such that a number of once very presentable and historically important vehicles have deteriorated badly. Many have been systematically robbed of parts, presumably for projects under restoration in the Busworks division of TTCIC, later CBNW. Blackpool Routemaster 521 is a prime example of this. Another example is former Ribble VR 1997, promised year after year, but has yet to make an appearance on the road. Fellow tram enthusiasts, having themselves felt the anger of the 233 Boat sale will I’m sure have a lot of sympathy for the bus enthusiasts who over the years sponsored the storage and restoration of various LTT buses, and have yet to see any results or appreciation for their generosity.

    This is not an invite for more people to criticise the LTT’s past sins; that’s been discussed at length. Its intention is to point out to Nigel, if it needs pointing out to him, the LTT has a mountain to climb to regain any sort of credibility in the transport preservation arena. Having an “extensive bus collection” is not in itself an attraction for people to invest their time and money in a preservation group. They have to be convinced the group has a clear and realistic strategy, its feet are firmly on the ground, it has a culture of openness and honesty, and it has the resources to deliver real results with its vehicles and meeting its charitable objectives and legal responsibilities. As a specific, my judgement is the LTT has far more preserved buses in various stages of restoration (or deterioration!) than comparable sister groups, many of whom are far better resourced and funded than the LTT. Can it really cope and justify the storage costs, let alone restore them in any sort of realistic timescale?

    So although you have received some qualified appreciation Nigel for at least making a statement on behalf of LTT, it may be wise to be cautious about statements like “exciting developments”. It’s very obvious to most observers the LTT has not the resources, including volunteers, to do anything very much. The organsiations has a long hard job to try and regain any sort of credibilty, and this will only come with demostrable culture change, respect and real results.

    As I said in a previous posting, good luck with that!

  8. Alan Kirkman says:

    I read this as being that the LTT is now under new management of a bus preservationist who has bailed out their debts etc to secure the future of the Buses that are his interests and wants rid of the trams ASAP. I note he does not seem to be able to answer financial question before say last week, I am not really surprised. This seperation cannot be other than good for all. The position we find ourselves in now is so much better than could have been imagined with 304 standing folorn in Fleetwood and the others in outside storage in May, soon all will be in Rigby Road in the hands of the new trust. I am so relieved! I hope for the sake of the LTT bus collection and relations with BTS that the new LTT will be a safe distance from CBNW. However The trams are safe and that is all I am concerned about.

    • Steve Jones says:

      Nice thought, but don’t think so Alan. No shining knight with lots of money to rescue the “new” LTT bus preservation group I’m afraid. I’m sure this is not the explanation of where the money to pay off the rent arrears came from.

      Nigel Powton has been involved with LTT on and off for a number of years. Amongst other things he was one of those involved in moving the trams from Rigby Rd to outside storage, and 304 move to Beamish. He contributed a couple of postings about the move on the LTT Blog at the time, if memory serves me right. I think I’m right in saying he was also for a time a director of the unfortunate TTCIC/Busworks. So he is no stranger to the LTT, although as far as I know he has not acted as an LTT trustee before.

      As for not being aware of the LTT financial situation, this excuse does not hold water. Even if his time with LTT had not exposed him to its financial difficulties, he has two trustee colleagues who have been in post for some time, one being an LTT founder member. I cannot imagine Mr Powton has gone public without first being appraised of the situation by his colleagues, and they in turn approving his public statement. In conclusion therefore, I think your interpretation is wide of the mark.

      I do agree with you though, it would be wise for the “new” LTT distances itself from CBNW. I doubt this will happen however, given they share the same operating base, one of the LTT trustees is the sole director of CBNW, and one other drives for them for a living. Additionally two of the three active LTT preserved buses, Lytham PD1 19 and Blackpool PD3 529 seem to spend most of the time on CBNW private hires. There certainly have not been at many LTT events (there has been only a handful anyway) for the public to enjoy them over the last couple of years at least.

      • Steve Jones says:

        Alan,

        As a postscript Nigel should be applauded for stepping in as a new trustee for LTT.

        Unlike many preservation groups LTT has been set up as an Unincorporated Body, not as a Company Limited By Guarantee. In the case of a UB, the trustees could be held financially responsible personally for any charity losses incurred through negligence. This of course applies also to past trustees that have now stepped down, but were in post at the time.

        In my view it’s a courageous step to take up a trustee post in these uncertain times for LTT.

        • Alan Kirkman says:

          I quite agree. Unless Nigel has stepped further in to save his buses and paid off the rent etc debts I can’t see where said money has come from. The interlinking of cash flows etc before will take some really serious detailed forensic investigation I am sure to untangle. I am sure all hands have been kept in the dark. I know the most recently resigned Trustee was. I’ve come across Nigel in the past and he was always a bus man. Someone had to step in and save the buses they were not any part of the “peace talks” which were purely to save the trams.

  9. Andrew Waddington says:

    Perhaps now is the time to sit back and allow the dust to settle, whilst allowing the LTT and BTS time to sort out their future plans for the trams in their care? Like many of you I have a lot of questions that still haven’t been answered, and probably never will be, but digging up the past too much seems likely to do more harm than good. Let us be grateful that, thanks to Bryan Lindop and his team, the trams collected by the LTT over the years will hopefully have a bright future – there’s a lot to look forward to!!!

    • Steve Jones says:

      Andrew,

      Quite understand your wish for BTOL to focus on more positive reporting and let the LTT subject rest. This is understandable, particularly as the LTT have stated their intention to focus entirely on their preserved buses, which of course is outside the remit and interest of BTOL.

      We must of course respect your wishes, and as far as BTOL is concerned close the discussion threads. However there are a number of unanswered questions concerning this charity’s funds and its relationship with its commercial arm that simply have to be investigated. The questions are broader than “LTT and BTS sorting out their future plans”. A lot of people have contributed in many ways to LTT, both financial and with their volunteer effort, not to mention the amounts of public money from which the LTT has had access.

      However the benefits of discussion on BTOL has probably run its course, and its time for interested parties to persue further investigation through appropriate channels and information sources. Past LTT accounts submitted to the Charity Commission have provided a good basis for analysis, as has the submissions to Companies House of the now dormant TTCIC. The set of accounts promised by Nigel Powton are eagerly awaited. Although they will only give a picture up to the end of October 2012 they will at least allow some judgement of whether the LTT has been solvent when persuing its activities up to that point.

      It will then be a matter of judgement on whether information warrants passing on to appropriate regulatory authorites such as the Charity Commission.

      • Paul W says:

        Perhaps worth pointing out, if people are not already aware, that the Companies House website shows that TTCIC is in the process of being struck off as the accounts for the years to January 31 2012 and to January 31 2013 have not been filed.