11th October 2017
Clanfield Community and Sports Centre - Further Statement - Clanfield Parish Council
- Author: Terry Collins: Chairman Clanfield Parish Council
- Published: 17th October 2017
- Categories: News, Community & Volunteer, Hampshire
STATEMENT FROM CLANFIELD PARISH COUNCIL
Clanfield Parish Council (CPC) has received a number of representations from residents following its decision, on 3 October at an open Parish Council meeting, to decline to take the transfer of the Community and Sports Centre at Windmill View until negotiations with an operator are satisfactorily concluded.
I am writing to explain the situation in more detail and, also, to respond to comments that residents have made about the relationship between the Community and Sports Centre and the increase in the Parish precept (which forms part of residents’ Council Tax payments) earlier this year.
First, I would like to explain the background to CPC’s decision on 3 October 2017.
The Section 106 Agreement (a legal agreement) which set up the arrangements for the provision of the community facilities at Windmill View was entered into by East Hampshire District Council (EHDC) and the (then) landowners on 8 November 2011. CPC was never a party to that Agreement or its subsequent Deed of Variation. CPC has been consulted regularly and, on behalf of the village, it has always welcomed the prospect that ownership of the facilities would be transferred to it. However, CPC is not contractually bound to accept the transfer of any facility whatever the situation might be in terms of its potential occupation and use and whatever the future financial burden could be for Council Tax payers in the village.
By declining to take the transfer of the Community and Sports Centre until negotiations with an operator are satisfactorily concluded, CPC acted in the best interests of the Council Tax payers in the village and entirely in accordance with legal advice which it had received from its Solicitors. It had no alternative but to take that decision against the background of the information that it had as at the date of the meeting on 3 October. It would have been wholly irresponsible if it had done otherwise.
Why are we in a situation of not yet having a confirmed operator for the Centre?
For some considerable time, until May 2017, CPC had been working with Clanfield Parish Institute (CPI), who are responsible for and who operate the Memorial Hall, as the potential operators of the Community and Sports Centre. CPI is not part of CPC. It is a separate, charitable organisation based in the village. At a meeting in May 2017, CPI informed CPC that it was not willing to sign a lease for occupation of the property and, despite previous requests, it had not provided a business plan and budget against which any financial start-up revenue support from public funds could be justified and monitored. CPC could not possibly proceed with CPI on that basis as it would have meant handing over occupation of a public asset without any specified landlord and tenant obligations in place for its care, management and maintenance and, potentially, an unquantifiable commitment for financial support. If we had gone ahead with CPI on those terms, we would have been in violation of our statutory obligations and it would have been totally contrary to legal advice which we received.
Faced with that situation, we met with Officers of EHDC on 7 June. A potential, alternative operator was identified and, in the time that has followed, they have been undertaking their due diligence work. When CPC met on 3 October, we did not have an offer to consider nor did we even know whether an offer would be forthcoming. We now know that we will be receiving a proposal from them and we know a little about the structure of the likely arrangement but the proposal has not yet been received. It will be given immediate attention by CPC when it is submitted. I regret that I do not have permission to reveal the identity of the potential operator nor, for reasons of commercial confidentiality, can I reveal what we are expecting the offer to be, either in business terms or with regard to the nature of the intended operation. However, I can say that it is an experienced national concern and it would almost certainly mean some adaption to the accommodation within the building to provide the range of sporting and community services which they have in mind to ensure viability.
In the meantime, and in our latest communication to the developers, we have confirmed that we wish to take the transfer of the top field with the allotments just as soon as the legal work, which is in hand, can be completed. We have also indicated that we would be willing to take the transfer of the bottom field, the LEAP and the MUGA at the same time. As soon as we have ownership, the LEAP and the MUGA will be open for use and we have contractors lined up ready to set out the allotment paths so that the individual plots will be available for use from early in the New Year. We have also suggested to the developers that our Solicitors should continue to work with theirs to get all the documentation ready for the transfer of the Community and Sports Centre and the tennis courts to CPC as soon as we are able to enter into a contract with an operator.
With regard to St James Place, we are working with the developers, EHDC, Clanfield Football Club and representatives of the Clanfield Bowls Club, which is in the process of being formed, to bring forward the new community facilities there as soon as we can. The first phase of the transfer to CPC at St James Place will be when the construction work on the sports pavilion is completed by the developers. The “Crimea Barn” is also likely to be transferred to CPC shortly.
Some residents have stated that they want their increased Council Tax (resulting from the increased Parish precept) to be returned to them because the Community and Sports Centre is not yet open for use. These requests are not just impossible but they are also based on incorrect information.
Parish Councils submit their precept requests to the District Council (in our case EHDC) in February each year. The precept requests are based upon estimated expenditure during the following financial year (commencing in April) to maintain the services for which the Parish is responsible. When CPC considered its precept requirement for 2017/2018 in January 2017, it understood that the Windmill View facilities would be ready for the developers to hand over to CPC in April / May 2017 and that the first phase of the St James Place facilities would also impact upon our maintenance budget during 2017/2018.
The facilities at Windmill View and St James Place, combined, will result in a considerable increase - no less than 160% - in the area of land which CPC will manage and maintain. Less than half of the £41,189 increase in the precept was allocated to the Community and Sports Centre and its ancillary facilities and that is for the financial year which does not end until next April. The estimated cost of providing bunds to protect the top and bottom fields at Windmill View from unauthorised vehicular access is around £14,000, preparing the Windmill View allotments for use is estimated to be around £10,000 and there will be extra insurance premiums to pay during this financial year, including the bowling green and sports pavilion at St James Place. When the Parish Council considers its precept request to EHDC for 2018 / 2019, any actual or anticipated underspend that there may be from the 2017 / 2018 precept will be properly taken into account.
The situation concerning the delivery of the community facilities at Windmill View and St James Place has been, and still is, extremely complex. Several Parish Councillors are working on this more or less full time and without the expertise and dedication of those Councillors, I have no doubt we would not be as far progressed as we are. We are more than aware how frustrating the delays and the difficulties have been but, with your support, we are bringing all the new facilities into use as quickly as we can.
On behalf of Clanfield Parish Council
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