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“It’s just disgusting behaviour”

Thatcham Town Council frustrated by developer's unwillingness

“It’s just disgusting behaviour”

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
relief. 

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.

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Article comments

  • VASIE

    VASIE

    20/07/2017 - 05:05

    Could be best left well alone as people are still reminded of green well go somewhere else and finish off theres loads of work about instead of butt moaning all day!

    Reply

  • StuartL

    19/07/2017 - 18:06

    Some points of clarification for those unaware of details: The covenant was put in place by a now defunct house building firm (Galliford Sears). Persimmon have gained the benefit of the covenant by acquiring the assets of that firm. From the wording on the covenant and the accompanying documentation it's clear that Galliford Sears were concerned about the council selling the land on or leasing it commercially. The covenant was later relaxed to include uses more appropriate to the field including storage. The covenant prevents the use of the buildings for local community groups (including pre-schools, youth clubs or other non-sport related organisations) even if those groups are for the benefit of the community. It is this phraseology which the council seek to change. Without Persimmon being willing to discuss a change to the covenant wording the council have to choose between violating the covenant, preventing community groups from using the site or taking the issue to tribunal.

    Reply

    • jmh_thatcham

      19/07/2017 - 21:09

      Sorry - it was not intentional to post that reply 4 times. This comment system does not make it clear if a comment was not added or not !

      Reply

    • jmh_thatcham

      19/07/2017 - 21:09

      To quote: "The covenant prevents the use of the buildings for local community groups (including pre-schools, youth clubs or other non-sport related organisations)" - sounds quite reasonable to me as it is a sports field. There are other venues non sports clubs could consider. If a non-sport organisation moves in and displaces a sport organisation, I don't agree that benefits "the community". Maybe it benefits a part of the community, but equally it disadvantages another part of the community. The council do not "have" to choose just between the options you list in my opinion. The other option is the council chooses to leave it as a sports venue with pavilion and facilities available to sports clubs to use.

      Reply

    • jmh_thatcham

      19/07/2017 - 21:09

      To quote: "The covenant prevents the use of the buildings for local community groups (including pre-schools, youth clubs or other non-sport related organisations)" - sounds quite reasonable to me as it is a sports field. There are other venues non sports clubs could consider. If a non-sport organisation moves in and displaces a sport organisation, I don't agree that benefits "the community". Maybe it benefits a part of the community, but equally it disadvantages another part of the community. The council do not "have" to choose just between the options you list in my opinion. The other option is the council chooses to leave it as a sports venue with pavilion and facilities available to sports clubs to use.

      Reply

    • jmh_thatcham

      19/07/2017 - 21:09

      To quote: "The covenant prevents the use of the buildings for local community groups (including pre-schools, youth clubs or other non-sport related organisations)" - sounds quite reasonable to me as it is a sports field. There are other venues non sports clubs could consider. If a non-sport organisation moves in and displaces a sport organisation, I don't agree that benefits "the community". Maybe it benefits a part of the community, but equally it disadvantages another part of the community. The council do not "have" to choose just between the options you list in my opinion. The other option is the council chooses to leave it as a sports venue with pavilion and facilities available to sports clubs to use.

      Reply

    • jmh_thatcham

      19/07/2017 - 21:09

      To quote: "The covenant prevents the use of the buildings for local community groups (including pre-schools, youth clubs or other non-sport related organisations)" - sounds quite reasonable to me as it is a sports field. There are other venues non sports clubs could consider. If a non-sport organisation moves in and displaces a sport organisation, I don't agree that benefits "the community". Maybe it benefits a part of the community, but equally it disadvantages another part of the community. The council do not "have" to choose just between the options you list in my opinion. The other option is the council chooses to leave it as a sports venue with pavilion and facilities available to sports clubs to use.

      Reply

      • StuartL

        19/07/2017 - 22:10

        My understanding is that the changes would not negatively affect any sports use of the buildings, only permit more uses.

        Reply

  • StuartL

    19/07/2017 - 18:06

    Some points of clarification for those unaware of details: The covenant was put in place by a now defunct house building firm (Galliford Sears). Persimmon have gained the benefit of the covenant by acquiring the assets of that firm. From the wording on the covenant and the accompanying documentation it's clear that Galliford Sears were concerned about the council selling the land on or leasing it commercially. The covenant was later relaxed to include uses more appropriate to the field including storage. The covenant prevents the use of the buildings for local community groups (including pre-schools, youth clubs or other non-sport related organisations) even if those groups are for the benefit of the community. It is this phraseology which the council seek to change. Without Persimmon being willing to discuss a change to the covenant wording the council have to choose between violating the covenant, preventing community groups from using the site or taking the issue to tribunal.

    Reply

  • jmh_thatcham

    19/07/2017 - 16:04

    Perhaps the covenant was put in place to ensure that the sports fields and pavilion remain just that - sports and recreational facilities. Several local sports clubs currently store equipment at the Pavilion / lock-up and use it to enable local children to play sport. If the council rents out the whole facility and this equipment cannot be stored on-site, then no more football games and other sports at Lower Way. Kind of a waste of the fields then, especially when facilities for playing sport are already limited in the area. Ask any local grassroots teams about how difficult it is to find space for training and matches to be played. Just another point of view to consider - is the covenant actually protecting the intended use of the field and facilities for the community ?

    Reply

    • Bombey

      19/07/2017 - 17:05

      of course it is...

      Reply

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