Rail event forced off the tracks

A MODEL railway club has taken the fast track out of its home town because of the rising costs of renting the venue for its major exhibition.Ipswich Railway Modellers' Association (IRMA) says it can longer afford to stage its annual showpiece at Northgate Sports Centre in the town.

A MODEL railway club has taken the fast track out of its home town because of the rising costs of renting the venue for its major exhibition.

Ipswich Railway Modellers' Association (IRMA) says it can longer afford to stage its annual showpiece at Northgate Sports Centre in the town.

It has accused Ipswich Borough Council of discriminating against it because it is not a sporting organisation and said it had been forced to move the event to a venue outside the town.

Ken Welton, president and exhibition manager of IRMA, said the group had been told it would have to pay a new commercial rate to hire the sports centre for the two-day exhibition.


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The rent would increase from the £1,700 it paid for this year's event to £2,000 next year and £2,500 in 2005, he added.

"We just can't afford that sort of money. It is a huge rise and it's all because we are a non-sporting organisation," he said.

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"We feel it's very unfair. There appears to be no flexibility in the council's attitude and we are treated as a commercial enterprise rather than a local voluntary organisation.

"We usually make some money from the event, just to keep the club running, and we can't afford to risk losing money on it."

He added: "We had the premier model railway exhibition in East Anglia – and they have knocked us on the head."

IRMA, which has 35 members and stages two shows a year, has held its major annual exhibitions at Northgate since 1992.

"The quality of our shows is such that this year we were featured on Anglia TV and attracted layouts from Holland and Belgium as well as exhibitors and traders from all parts of the UK," said Mr Welton.

It now plans to stage next year's event at Kesgrave Community Centre.

An Ipswich Borough Council spokesman said: "We are very sad that the society has decided to leave Northgate as we had offered a number of discounts this year to keep costs down and had not charged the full commercial rate.

"We have strongly supported this event in the past and are happy to talk to the society about ways of keeping fees down.

"During the weekend of the show, we have to virtually close the sports centre and that costs us a lot of revenue.

"We have a new fairer charging structure which is being kept under constant review but in these days of tight budgeting we have a responsibility to all our Council Tax payers to be prudent with their money."

He confirmed the rate for next year's show would be £2,000 but said no fee had been agreed for 2005.

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