12 March 2020.
The Executive Headteacher of two Primary Schools situated close to the West Somerset Railway – Crowcombe and Stogumber – has written an open letter to Jonathan Jones-Pratt, Chairman of the WSR plc, accusing him of having “isolated, intimated, driven out and ignored the community” in his time as Chairman.
The letter, which has been reported on by the Somerset County Gazette was copied to ourselves as well as the Trustees of the West Somerset Railway Association (WSRA), Trustees of the West Somerset Steam Railway Trust (WSSRT), Opportunity Area Boards of Somerset County Council and Ian Liddell-Grainger MP.
An attitude of “if you don’t like it then leave” was prevailing without hearing the volunteer or community point of view, she claimed.
The Headteacher – whose school motto is “Stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong” – also took issue with the allocation of a £96,000 community fund intended to aid the engagement between the railway and the children of 18 local schools, amongst other community objectives. She alleged that the money “has been spent in other areas of the organisation and the key targets set out with that money are not now supporting the community engagement it was awarded for.“
Responding to the Gazette, the WSR plc described the letter as wildly inaccurate and offensive and said that this was really a matter for the WSRA. WSRA Chairman Mike Sherwood acknowledged to the Gazette that the money may not have been spent in exactly the way that was set out in the original grant application but it had been spent on the agreed community engagement objectives, he claimed.