Sports group: 'Council is holding a gun to our head over lease'

Bucks Free Press: Sports group claims council is 'holding a gun to its head' over lease Sports group claims council is 'holding a gun to its head' over lease

A SPORTS group says a council is "holding a gun to its head" over a new lease at the Hazlemere Pavilion - a claim denied by a council.

John Horton, who sits on the Hazlemere Sports Association management committee, said the group - tenants at the building - is being held to ransom by Hazlemere Parish Council over the terms of the Ken Williams Memorial Pavilion lease.

The council has rebuffed that claim and says it is simply trying to protect its asset to ensure it is of the benefit to the whole of the community.

The row centres over a ‘£1 peppercorn lease’. The council’s solicitors say the agreement has expired, is not legally binding and want a commercial lease in place on the pavilion, valued at £40,500 per year.

But the HSA believes the peppercorn lease should be honoured and says it simply cannot afford to pay that commercial evaluation - a view backed by an 900-strong petition calling for the council to stick by the current rent arrangement.

The council has served HSA a Section 25 notice to vacate the pavilion by May. It says it is to force the group to the negotiation table.

Mr Horton, who decided to stay away from the meeting to let pavilion users have their say, said: "How do they expect us to run the pavilion on that valuation when we already have a repairing lease obligation?

"We don’t believe you can have a commercial rent on a community building. They’ve gone back on the original agreement, we wouldn’t have taken it on had we’d know this would happen.

"They have served us with the Section 25 notice and are basically holding a gun to our head. It’s hard to negotiate with the threat of eviction hanging over your head."

About 80 people connected to the sports association attended HPC’s full council meeting last Tuesday to quiz councillors about the dispute.

Council chairman Cllr Brian Mapletoft told the meeting the council had not received formal indication that the two original trustees of HSA were willing to negotiate a new lease.

HSA members disputed that claim and said the group had a proposal rejected out of hand in January 2013 by a previous incarnation of the council, which Cllr Mapletoft and other current councillors were part of.

But Cllr Mapletoft said that had not been made since he became chairman in May and no-one from the group had been in contact since.

He told the meeting a two-year agreement signed in 2010 by then council chairman Cllr Judy Weaver and the HSA’s Millie Roberts had a number of legal discrepancies and was not legally binding.

Cllr Mapletoft added: "If terms cannot be agreed with the trustees of HSA, either the council may consider running the pavilion itself, or a new operator may be invited to take a lease of the pavilion.

"Either way it is the council’s aim that the pavilion continues to be used for the benefit of the community, sports enthusiasts and associated clubs, for as long as it is viable to do so."

A public consultation would be held, subject to the agreement of fellow councillors, about the future running of the pavilion in the event a deal could not be struck, Cllr Mapletoft pledged.

Steve Roy, whose wife is a HSA trustee, said he felt the council were "preparing for a court battle, not a negotiation".

The group has called for a full and open public debate on the situation.

More than 900 people have signed a petition calling for the council to stick by the peppercorn rent arrangement. Click here to view it.

Comments (3)

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3:38am Fri 14 Feb 14

buftonp13 says...

What a joke this is. How can the council say that the pavilion doesn't benefit the community? I don't live in or near Hazlemere or have anything to do with the club but it is for the community any one can see that. They just want to grab more and more money, its disgusting. Don't waste nearly £400K on opposing HS2, give that money to our communities. With pubs closing down all over the town we need clubs like this so people can get together and socialise instead of just sat inside watching tv.
What a joke this is. How can the council say that the pavilion doesn't benefit the community? I don't live in or near Hazlemere or have anything to do with the club but it is for the community any one can see that. They just want to grab more and more money, its disgusting. Don't waste nearly £400K on opposing HS2, give that money to our communities. With pubs closing down all over the town we need clubs like this so people can get together and socialise instead of just sat inside watching tv. buftonp13
  • Score: 10

6:23pm Fri 14 Feb 14

whingefree says...

The Parish Council is, unfortunately, influenced by a very, very tiny minority of residents who believe that a commercial rent should be applied to the pavilion.

This is, of course, a nonsense. The pavilion was built as a community asset to be managed by the community, for the community. Hazlemere Sports Association is entirely volunteer led and works exceptionally hard to run the pavilion for the benefit of the local community - and paying for all the running costs, maintenance and furniture.

It was always the intention that the pavilion would operate in that way. The pavilion was built with that in mind, and the 'peppercorn' rent applied accordingly. Many, many, many local community properties in the UK operate in the same way - local communities working together with parish, town, district and county councils. Ken Williams, after whom the pavilion was named, is one such local volunteer who would be horrified at the actions of the Parish Council.

Unfortunately, Hazlemere Parish Council is now led by a member of the aforementioned tiny interest group and it has been persuaded to co-opt or put up other friends and family who support similar views. This has led to an unrepresentative council that is out of touch with the majority of local families who are very keen to see the pavilion continue to be managed by the volunteer group who are already making it a real success story.

The Parish Council has even tried to close down an open debate about the issue by incorrectly declaring such discussions 'sub-judice'. And this from a Chair who declared a new era of openness and transparency when he was elected.

Poor show from the Parish Council. Embarrassing.

If you want to join the majority of local families who support the continuation of the 'peppercorn' rent, sign the petition. You'll be joining with 951 others who support the good work of the volunteers who are managing this community building:

http://www.ipetition
s.com/petition/save-
our-sports-pavilion-
in-hazlemere
The Parish Council is, unfortunately, influenced by a very, very tiny minority of residents who believe that a commercial rent should be applied to the pavilion. This is, of course, a nonsense. The pavilion was built as a community asset to be managed by the community, for the community. Hazlemere Sports Association is entirely volunteer led and works exceptionally hard to run the pavilion for the benefit of the local community - and paying for all the running costs, maintenance and furniture. It was always the intention that the pavilion would operate in that way. The pavilion was built with that in mind, and the 'peppercorn' rent applied accordingly. Many, many, many local community properties in the UK operate in the same way - local communities working together with parish, town, district and county councils. Ken Williams, after whom the pavilion was named, is one such local volunteer who would be horrified at the actions of the Parish Council. Unfortunately, Hazlemere Parish Council is now led by a member of the aforementioned tiny interest group and it has been persuaded to co-opt or put up other friends and family who support similar views. This has led to an unrepresentative council that is out of touch with the majority of local families who are very keen to see the pavilion continue to be managed by the volunteer group who are already making it a real success story. The Parish Council has even tried to close down an open debate about the issue by incorrectly declaring such discussions 'sub-judice'. And this from a Chair who declared a new era of openness and transparency when he was elected. Poor show from the Parish Council. Embarrassing. If you want to join the majority of local families who support the continuation of the 'peppercorn' rent, sign the petition. You'll be joining with 951 others who support the good work of the volunteers who are managing this community building: http://www.ipetition s.com/petition/save- our-sports-pavilion- in-hazlemere whingefree
  • Score: 11

8:53am Sat 15 Feb 14

Hazlemere Man says...

It is a shame that a council can spend £13,000 of our money on an outdoor gym which will need extra investment in mats, paths and maintenance after a so called consultation that attracted all of 40 residents saying they'd like one yet they most likely will ignore a petition that could well exceed 1,000 signatures and spend legal fees on evicting a group of hard working volunteers providing a service to sport and the community.
It is a shame that a council can spend £13,000 of our money on an outdoor gym which will need extra investment in mats, paths and maintenance after a so called consultation that attracted all of 40 residents saying they'd like one yet they most likely will ignore a petition that could well exceed 1,000 signatures and spend legal fees on evicting a group of hard working volunteers providing a service to sport and the community. Hazlemere Man
  • Score: 8

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