West Somerset Railway sale investigation launched

Steam train going through West Somerset Railway line. Somerset County Council wants to sell the freehold of West Somerset Railway

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An investigation is to take place into the conduct of a Somerset County Council cabinet member over the proposed sale of a heritage railway.

Conservative David Huxtable was in charge of the possible sale of the freehold of West Somerset Railway.

A public complaint has been made to the council's standards board after allegations that he was in a "cosy relationship" with a potential buyer.

Mr Huxtable has told the BBC he had done nothing wrong.

Somerset County Council leader John Osman told the council's scrutiny committee that he had formally taken over all decision-making relating to the railway, and the sale had been put on hold.

Impartiality questioned

In May, Independent Councillor Mike Rigby questioned Mr Huxtable's impartiality after seeing his emails sent to one of the bidders.

A Freedom of Information request revealed the content of emails between Mr Huxtable and Roger Bush from the West Somerset Railway Association.

They showed various statements from Mr Huxtable which Mr Rigby said made him "really surprised" because they showed a "cosy relationship with the representative of the railway association".

Two groups, the West Somerset Railway Association and West Somerset Railway Plc, have bid for the freehold.

Mr Osman said: "I'm aware that there is an issue in relation to a councillor being reported to the standards board.

"I decided to step in and take over because what we want is transparency and the right decisions being made."

Mr Huxtable said he was "happy to take part in the investigation" and present himself to the Standards Board to "clear my name that way".

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