The Parish has an excellent opportunity to acquire a property to enable us to provide a Community facility in the centre of the village. Such a facility has been sought after on a number of occasions since about 1970. The failure to achieve this has been for many reasons and sites have been built over for housing.
We are now close to signing up to acquire the site which will then commit the Parish to a long term requirement to run and fund the eventual facility.
The facility will be run as a not for profit charity organisation, relying on donations from different funders together with charges for services to provide income. It has never been assumed that the Parish Council will fully fund the centre but we have discussed and over the past two years allocated funds from the precept for community services.
I have some questions which come to mind and I share them with you in order that if anyone has answers they can be shared with us or alternatively some of the points may be considered by some as of no concern and it would help if the reasons for that view could be shared. Do we go ahead with the acquisition when there could be a number of unknowns which may have an effect on future viability?
What 'strings' are attached to the purchase? What are the conditions and where can they be seen in writing [other than the email of 3 October 2013]? What happens if we ‘default’? Will we be refunded the £5,000+ pounds? Is an email from a mid-ranking officer considered a suitable commitment to have legal standing if challenged?
(RU) There are 2 conditions attached to the acquisition which have already been circulated. They are
1) That we submit a planning application within 6 months
2) That we deliver community services from the site within 5 years
These will be embodied in the S106 agreement which will be scrutinised by our solicitor to ensure that we are adequately protected. The email from the mid-ranking officer was clearly just a communication to notify us of the agreement and advise us to commence the legal process. The email will be superseded by a legal agreement and therefore will not need to have any legal standing.
Do we feel we have the support of the Parish to undertake this project and commit them to the potential cost for years to come? There have been three 'surveys' to date in two formats. Will those surveys stand up to scrutiny if challenged?
(RU) This subject has been raised on a number of occasions and we had a review of this issue and agreed that we had carried out a more than adequate consultation with the village. It is minuted in one of our meetings (sorry I don’t have the time to find the specific) and we agreed that this subject would not be raised again
It is planned to consult with various groups within the Parish after we have 'signed up'. [I set out a process for this in February 2013 as one of my tasks and raised it again in July 2013] We have seen a view put forward by a member of the Youth Club Management which could be argued to question the need for some of what we propose for the site. Should we be sure we have support from the majority of various groups within the Parish before we commit to the acquisition?
(RU) The Youth Club management are being totally supportive with what we are doing and simply offering the use of their premises for trialling new services where possible. I have also presented the concept to the Village Hall Committee with a favourable response. I will be meeting them again in January to discuss the issue of parking. At this stage, whist we do not have any facilities, it is my view as project manager that we do not need to carry out any further consultation until we have something to talk about. Getting the support of, for example, the Short Mat Bowling Club, would not be relevant to what we are trying to do.
We have documented the various costs for acquisition of the site and some of the potential funding in place to cover those costs. We have promises of money from DCC but we can only get that after we have spent the money and produced paid invoices. Will they put restrictions on what items the 'community budget' can be used for?
(RU) The information which I received and circulated clearly states that DCC will make payments on the production of invoices and that the payments will be made such that we can pay the invoices within the required timescales. They will be particularly sensitive to the payment we have to make to the solicitors for the conveyancing and associated costs. There has never been a suggestion that we need to pay first and claim back later and there has been no indication that there may be items which are not allowed.
Do we have any facts as to what the proposed facilities will cost to maintain and run in the future? [I did flag this up in a document in July 2013]
Do we have any fact based idea as to what income may be expected from the various proposed elements of the proposed facilities?
(RU) Whilst we are trying to get a feel for overall costs and income, until we have planning consent, it is impractical to produce all the possible variations of financial plans. The important thing at this stage is to secure the land for village use in the future.
Do we have any sound information as to potential agreements with the Pharmacy, Doctors or Catering provider? This would include potential leases, rental agreements, utility agreements, cleaning and maintenance provision and contribution to 'sinking funds'.
(RU) We have no sound information on these matters and until we have planning consent for the required use, we cannot start serious negotiations. Any lease agreements will be based on a standard templates and we will receive legal advice on the drawing up of specific agreements from these.
Fundraising is being explored now but our main source of hoped for income was Virador and the approach to them was rejected. What have we to show people we are now approaching?
(RU) We have not given up on Viridor and it needs to be understood that fundraising is an inexact science and very unpredictable. We will make many applications and will expect a lot of rejections. There is a management summary document which has been circulated and this together with information relevant to a potential funder will form the basis of our applications. It is not possible to present a list of funding offers before we accept the offer of the land. This is why there is a five year window in which to start operations.
A Business Plan has been muted and will be needed. Will it be placed before Parish Council for approval?
(RU) As we acquire the property and planning application, a full business plan will be developed which will be reviewed and approved by the appropriate body, whether Parish Council, Charity or both.
These issues come to my mind and I am sure others will have concerns/questions.
(RU) Please note
The above questions should have been addressed to the Community sub-committee and are not appropriate for Full Council meetings. The intention of the item on Thursday’s meeting is to be a formal agreement to do what we have supported and worked towards for many years. It should be a moment of celebration and achievement and I will be more than disappointed if we choose to pick over the offer which gives us the land for just over £5,000 (until we received the email from Thea, the price was £25,000) even this is being covered by the Ray Radford grant which will also cover the legal and planning submission costs and leave a bit over towards the refurbishment.
I am saddened that we have failed to complete a structural survey – and we will keep trying – but this ultimately should not change the decision, but will determine which of two plans we follow when we have the knowledge. If the building turn out to be bad (which we don’t believe is the case) we demolish them and start from a clear piece of land. If the buildings are deemed to be in good condition we will refurbish them. The refurbishment costs and the demolition costs are about the same. I believe that there is no risk associated with the decision to acquire the land. If the survey is not available on Thursday, I will ensure that it is circulated, when available, so that we can all have the knowledge to make the decision as to which path we follow after acquisition.
We are acquiring a piece of land which just happens to have buildings on it. Having the land for the future use of the village is in my view the most important consideration and what I have been pursuing for the past four years.
Should we agree to move ahead in line with the notice of motion, I will ensure that the conveyancing contract is available to the Parish Council members for review prior to signing. There may be some time pressures but with a structured feedback process we will be able to ensure the in involvement of everyone.
Rather than purchasing the land, this exercise should be regarded as accepting a donation of land, buildings and cash to the village from MDDC, the developer and DCC via our County Councillor. We cannot put conditions on it and we have to accept the conditions which come with it. There is no cost to the village for the acquisition through to planning consent.
Do we really want to discuss whether we want to accept this donation to the village in minute detail in a Full Council especially when Richard Chesterton (who worked hard to get this deal) and Ray Radford (who is providing the start-up funding) will be there? I believe that all the significant issues have been aired fully in the Community sub-committee.
I think we should be seen to be acting in a gracious manner as a professional Parish Council. We are being given a real opportunity which benefits our village. This is a cause for celebration.