Board of Trustees of the Recreation Ground, Bath
Wednesday, 9th April, 2008
BATH AND NORTH EAST SOMERSET
BATH RECREATION GROUND TRUST
Monday 10th March 2008
Councillor Chris Watt - Children's Services
Councillor Vic Pritchard - Adult Social Services and Housing
Councillor David Hawkins - Development and Major Projects
29 EMERGENCY EVACUATION PROCEDURE
The Chair(person) drew attention to the emergency evacuation procedure as set out on the Agenda.
30 DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST UNDER THE LOCAL GOVERNMENT ACT 1972
There were no declarations of interest made.
31 TO ANNOUNCE ANY URGENT BUSINESS AGREED BY THE CHAIR(PERSON)
There were no items of urgent business.
32 QUESTIONS AND STATEMENTS
Before moving to the public statements, the Chair took the opportunity to refer to an issue of potential conflict of interest that had been raised in correspondence, in order to clarify the issues. He explained that Ian Nockolds, who had made statements to previous meetings, and was due to do so to this one, worked for his company. He indicated that this was public knowledge and had been clear on the company's website for the last 7 years. The Chair gave an assurance that Mr Nockolds had no greater or lesser access to information than any other interested party and, similarly, no greater or lesser ability to influence his judgement. He added that it would be inappropriate for him to fetter Mr Nockolds' right to free speech, in choosing to address the Board or not.
In response to a specific point about whether an interest should have been declared by him regarding his acquaintance with Mr Nockolds, Councillor Watt explained that within the terms of the LGA Act there was no interest to declare.
Statements were made by the following people. Where provided, copies have been placed on the Minute book;
o Keith McGarrigle
o Jill McGarrigle on behalf of Worthy Gilson
o Ian Nockolds
o Bob Calleja
33 MINUTES: WEDNESDAY 16TH JANUARY 2008
On a motion from Councillor Vic Pritchard, seconded by Councillor Hawkins, it was
RESOLVED that the minutes of the meeting held on Wednesday 16th January 2008 be confirmed as a correct record and signed by the Chair(person)
34 LAND FOR EAST STAND - TEMPORARY LEASE (Report 7).
The Chair explained that, in bringing forward this report, the Trustees were mindful of the fact that they had made a decision that option 2 of the Strategic Review was their preferred option. This involved the retention of the Leisure Centre and Bath Rugby on the recreation ground. Therefore, the justification for this temporary lease was to ensure that the Rugby club remained a viable tenant while negotiation and discussion were going on to reach a long-term position. Although significant progress had been made recently, it would still take time to resolve the details and so this allowed the flexibility to progress those negotiations. The Rugby club had asked for 2 years but the Trustees felt 1 year to be more appropriate and hoped that a final resolution would be reached within the lifetime of this lease.
Councillor Pritchard, in seconding the proposal, supported a 1 year lease and hoped that issues would be resolved within that time.
On a motion from Councillor Watt, seconded by Councillor Pritchard, it was
(1) To agree that in principle it is in the best interest of the Trust to grant a further lease to Bath Rugby plc of the land for the temporary east stand;
(2) To authorise the Trust's advisers to engage consultants to negotiate the rent payable in respect of the new lease; and
(3) To receive a further report at a future meeting on the outcome of the negotiations.
35 CHARITY COMMISSION RESPONSE (Report 8).
The Chair referred to the letter of 6th March from the Charity Commission; copies of which had been circulated to the meeting and placed on the Council's website from 12 noon that day. He outlined their reasons for releasing this publicly which were twofold;
o In the light of the very high level of public interest in the issue, publication of the letter provides an opportunity to discuss in more detail the current state of play, the progress that has been made and what needs to happen to keep up the momentum.
o Releasing the letter serves to communicate to the Council and the Rugby club that a potential solution is conceivable, but that some movement is needed on all sides.
Councillor Watt explained that the letter demonstrated that the Trust was in constructive dialogue with the Charity Commission who recognised the progress that had been made. Although neither a `Yes' or `No' had been given, a possible way forward was now open and it was now down to the Trust to provide a clearer exposition of the benefits in allowing the Rugby club to remain longer term.
Councillor Watt explained that the issues regarding the Leisure Centre were slightly easier to address. He referred to the section of the letter relating to this and confirmed that it was now up to the Trust to negotiate the best position with the Council.
With respect to the Rugby club, Councillor Watt explained that the issues were more complicated. He welcomed the Charity Commission's confidence in the Trust, which was now at a level that would allow the Trustees to pursue these issues in detail.
The Chair then opened up the meeting for contributions from members of the public and interested parties which are summarised below;
Alun Morgan acknowledged the amount of work that would be needed over the next few weeks in drawing up the list of benefits and wondered if the Trust would be able to share their progress with the public as it developed.
Councillor Watt responded that he expected negotiations to be done in private as they would involve commercially sensitive contractual agreements. However, he was happy to place on record the following statement of intent; the Trust would be seeking to improve the facilities available on the remainder of the Recreation ground, they would be seeking greater access to new facilities for the beneficiaries of the Trust and also seeking a more advantageous financial settlement.
Tony Crombie called for consideration of the letter to be deferred until the next meeting to allow for all the issues to be fully considered. He also asked for an explanation of how the terms of the conveyance could be reconciled with the need for the land to remain open.
In response, Councillor Watt gave the background to this and explained that the Charity Commission now wished to pursue a single regulatory scheme to cover the Leisure Centre and the Rugby club provided the Trustees could demonstrate that the benefits outweigh the detriments. If successful, the charitable objects of the Trust would be changed by the proposed scheme as appropriate.
Neil Jackson referred to the sentence at the bottom of page 2 of the letter and queried whether the Trust had power to grant the lease, in the light of the fact that the Charity Commission had not been happy with it last time. He queried what assurance they had that it would be able to be progressed.
Councillor Watt, in responding, explained the rationale for the temporary lease to be awarded and the process which would then follow leading to an application for an order.
Jill McGarrigle asked for an indication of how long a lease would be pursued.
Councillor Watt confirmed that the Rugby club currently have a lease of 62 years and that the exact length of any future lease would be the subject of negotiations. The Charity Commission letter had certainly indicated that they would favour a shorter period.
Agnes Melling referred to the sentence on page 3 of the letter regarding the Commission not having seen any specific proposal that would pass the legal test and asked for an explanation of how their position related to this.
Councillor Watt explained that there was a legal threshold to be passed where the benefits would outweigh the detriments. For this to happen, the benefits would need to be legally evidenced via contracts, heads of terms etc and the Trust had not yet reached this stage. However, he remained confident that the Trust would be able to present significantly quantifiable benefits.
Bob Calleja commented that the letter contained complex issues which could be difficult to understand for the layman and asked whether the Chair would consider preparing a simplified statement to put into the public domain to accompany it.
Councillor Watt acknowledged the complexity of the issues but expressed reluctance to do this as he did not want people basing their views on his interpretation of the facts, rather than the letter itself.
Keith Davies asked for clarification on the future composition of the Trust Board.
Councilllor Watt explained that this issue was under consideration by the Board and may be changed in future. As part of a wider review, the Council may consider alternative approaches to how it deals generally with other land it owns in trust.
Neil Jackson asked a question about parking revenue.
In response, Councillor Watt explained that judgement needed to be given as to whether revenue from parking was any more or less acceptable than money from the Rugby club. Parking revenue may form part of the negotiations.
Councillor Furse asked a question about addressing the current detriment of the stands making the ground inaccessible.
Councillor Watt explained that they received many complaints regarding lack of access and the fencing off of areas. They have had discussions with the Rugby club about these issues and would be keeping an eye on this issue during the summer. He reminded the meeting though that the ground was not an open park with free and unfettered access and that any planned uses should be booked.
Following the above contributions, Councillor Pritchard commented that the debate so far had provided a clear appraisal of the current situation and it was now time to move forward.
Councillor Hawkins acknowledged the complex issues raised within the Charity Commission's letter and welcomed the opportunity that now existed to make further progress.
On a motion from Councillor Watt, seconded by Councillor Hawkins, it was
RESOLVED that the Board agree it is expedient in the Trust's interests to consider further the issues raised in the letter from the Charity Commission of 6th March and accordingly
(1) Instruct the independent Trust Adviser to initiate discussions with;
(a) Council officers concerning the Leisure Centre and;
(b) The Rugby club concerning their use of the Recreation ground;
(2) Authorise the Independent Trust Adviser to engage specialist external valuation and legal advice as necessary for this purpose; and
(3) Resolve to receive a further report on the outcome of these discussions at a future meeting.
The Trust then further RESOLVED
That, having been satisfied that the public interest would be better served by not disclosing relevant information, and in accordance with the provisions of Section 100(A)(4) of the Local Government Act 1972, the public be excluded from the meeting for the following item (or part item) of business because of the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in paragraph 3 of Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Act as amended.
All members of the public then left the meeting and the Trustees had a discussion regarding the areas they wished to be explored further in negotiation regarding the range of benefits and detriments.
The meeting ended at 7.30pm
Date Confirmed and Signed
Prepared by Democratic Services