Health and Community Services
More houses - few facilities

Willand health and Community Centre – THE DEAM FADES

On Thursday 14th April the Parish Council voted to move forward with discussions on an alternative proposal for the use of the Gables Site which had been allocated for the development of the Willand Health and Community Centre.

On Tuesday 12th April the results of the Feasibility Questionnaire circulated in the March/April issue of the Parish Magazine was sent to all parish councillors,  It showed that of the respondents, 94 Percent were in favour of the WH&CC and only 6 percent against  The Full Parish Council meeting held on Thursday 12th April did not make any reference to this. It makes you ask the question who they represent?.  The Parish Council were planning their own survey at the time and they agreed to wait for the results of the charity survey, but apparently this overwhelming result made no difference to the council decision to consider their alternative proposal for the Gables site.

The land was sold to the Parish Council for just over £5000 but, it was a grant from Devon County Council for £15,000 that covered the cost of the purchase of the land and the costs of obtaining planning consent.  In view of this generous donation, a heads of agreement was drawn up for the lease, which was submitted to the Charity Commission as part of the application to form a charity to manage the project.  The lease cost was agreed at an annual  peppercorn rent. However, it would seem that the Parish Council indicate that they could now remove the difficult clause if the Trustees paid a market value for the lease.  On reflection, it would  now seem that this was all about the Parish Council making money out of this project, which was never the agreed intention notified to the Charity Commission and is against the wishes of the residents.

After the purchase of the land, the Parish Council put in a planning application in line with the conditions laid down by Mid Devon District Council for change of use to and  the construction of a Health and Community Centre.  This was granted.  There is no question about the intentions of the Parish Council

For two years the Parish Council has resisted removing a clause in the lease they "served” on the Trustees of the charity which required the Trustees to sign away their tenant rights. The lease contained a  "Notice” that the trustees should take legal advice before signing the lease, the legal advice received from three solicitors indicated that a non-renewable lease was not in the best interests of the charity, and advised the Trustees not to sign. There were also several other clauses which would have made the Trustees legally liable to carry out renovation  works "whether they had the funds or not”.  This clearly was unacceptable to the trustees. 

Having started the project to find some land around 8 years ago and succeeded in the allocation almost 4 years ago, we are more than disappointed that the Parish Council, of all people, have caused the project to fail. It is somewhat rather sad that "The Willand Parish Council conceived the idea to build the Willand Health & Community Centre” and " The Willand Parish Council have now killed the idea”.

We now need to find other ways of delivering community services that were envisaged for the Centre.  Without a hub , this will be much more difficult, however, we should not give up.  All of the services, which were defined in 1972 by Devon County Council,  are still needed and supported by the village.

We owe much to Ken who assumed the chair when Ray resigned from the charity as it was believed that he was seen as a stumbling block.  Ken has spent many  hundreds of hours in trying to find alternatives for the lease whilst fine tuning the design of the building, producing the business plans and the feasibility study whilst also working with architects to be ready once a lease was signed..  You can imagine his frustration  at this decision and he has now decided to stand down as a Trustee.  His resignation letter is attached.

There is also the matter of grants and donations made for the project.  As the charity was not formed at this point the money was kept in the Parish Council bank account.  When Ray left the Council, the account stood at around £20,000.  These are designated funds and should only be used for the purpose intended.  The Parish Council have refused to pass this money to the charity until a lease was signed, Had we received had these funds we could have been looking at alternatives a lot sooner. The heads of agreement for the lease clearly state that each party pays their own legal fees, whereas the Parish Council have been using these designated funds to pay their  own legal costs.  We cannot believe that this is in line with commitments they made to the Charity Commission.

It is noted that several councillors including the chairman of the Parish Council have completed the recent Feasibility Questionnaire giving their support to the development of the Centre, yet there appears to be no "visible support” coming from the Parish Council.

A full report detailing the problems that have been encountered is being prepared for submission to the Charity Commission and this will be published when it is available

Ray Ursell

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