THATCHAM Town Council is preparing to do battle with a developer over a restrictive covenant, which has led to a community asset being wasted.
A lack of response from Persimmon Homes over amending or relinquishing a covenant over the Lower Way workshop and pavilion could see the council take the fight to tribunal.
The pavilion, workshop and playing fields are owned by Thatcham Town Council, but when the land was transferred from the developer to the council, covenants imposed by Persimmon restricted the use to storage of sports machinery and equipment.
Community group Newbury and District Hackspace is based at the pavilion and its plans to expand to the workshop are being hampered by the restriction.
Children’s disability charity Swings and Smiles’ proposal to set up a permanent home in the building was also scuppered by the covenant.
The town council has instructed solicitors to deal with Persimmon, but frustration over the lack of engagement boiled over at a public meeting on Monday.
Rob Denton-Powell (Con, Thatcham and Crookham) said: “I find it absolutely disgusting for a company like Persimmon, who are trying to sell houses to the community, but are not helping us with a community asset.
“They should be ashamed of themselves.
“It beggars belief that they make so much money from local taxpayers.
“I’m all in favour of going to tribunal. We lost Swings and Smiles because of this.”
Adding his support, town council leader Jason Collis (Con, Thatcham North) said: “It’s a wasting asset and we are not able to help the community in ways we want to because of this covenant.
“I’m all in favour of having it removed or relaxed.
“I believe that the council should do what is necessary to use our community assets.”
Caution over a protracted fight came from former solicitor Richard Crumly (Con, Thatcham Central) who said he didn’t feel comfortable bringing in lawyers when there was no guarantee of success.
He said: “Before we start putting serious money in we need counsel about whether this should be pursued, otherwise we could be exposing ourselves to considerable legal costs.
“It could be an embarrassing experience for us if we don’t win.”
Liberal Democrat councillor Jeff Brooks (Thatcham West) suggested a two-pronged attack of legal action and writing to Persimmon’s managing director.
“We should be writing to the managing director saying ‘can you do this?’.
“Otherwise we have to drag them to court and who wins? The lawyers.”
But when town clerk Mel Alexander said that Persimmon was refusing to acknowledge the town council’s requests, Mr Brooks said: “I think the court beckons on that kind of response.”
“It’s just disgusting behaviour,” Mr Denton-Powell added.
Councillors heard from the founder of Newbury and District Hackspace, Stuart Livings, who said that the council had a strong argument that Persimmon had not been upholding the covenant.
Mr Crumly asked whether they could contribute towards the legal fees, but Mr Livings said that the group was breaking even and couldn’t absorb them.
However, the group could pay more rent if it took over the whole building as it would be eligible for rate
Councillors voted to defer their next steps until legal advice had been received.
Persimmon Homes had not responded to the Newbury Weekly News’ request for comment by the time this paper went to press.