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Parish Council update on the Pavilion and lease of the Playing Field

Val Whitbread

Very understandably, many residents have asked why the Pavilion has still not been completed and brought into use.

Last year, solicitors acting for the Bramham Sports and Leisure Association set out its claim to have a legal interest in the playing fields and the Pavilion that effectively gives it full control of both.  The claim is based on a draft of a lease produced in October 2008 (before the BSLA came into existence) but never completed and which is invalid.

Although the Council’s own legal advice was that there was no basis for the BSLA’s claim, in April 2013 the Council offered to grant it a 30 year lease.  This lease would have been very similar to the 2008 draft lease, in that the rent would be £1 a year, with both the Council and the BSLA having the right to end the lease earlier if they chose, but limiting the BSLA’s use of the playing fields and the Pavilion to that of recreational facility primarily for residents.

The BSLA’s solicitors did not reply to this offer until September 2013 when they requested some amendments to the draft.   In response, the Council’s solicitors offered certain concessions, but by 8 November 2013 the BSLA’s solicitors had still not replied.  Accordingly, on that day the Council’s solicitors told the BSLA’s solicitors that if the BSLA had not accepted the proposed lease by 6 December 2013, there would no further negotiations.

On 5th December 2013 – that is, one day before the deadline set by the Council - the BSLA’s solicitors wrote back rejecting the Council’s proposed lease.  Instead, and whilst continuing to maintain its claim to a legal interest in the playing fields and the Pavilion, the BSLA have asked the Council to grant it a lease which would still at be at a rent of £1 a year, but for 99 years, with no right to end the lease earlier, and with no limits on the BSLA’s use of the playing fields and Pavilion. 

A lease in these terms would be the equivalent of giving the playing fields and the Pavilion to the BSLA for nothing for the BSLA to do whatever it wishes with them.  The Council cannot do this in any case, as the Local Government Act 1972 requires it to obtain best value on the disposal of any asset.  However, the Council’s primary aim is for the playing fields and Pavilion to be completed as soon as possible, so that they can then be run by a party working in partnership with the Council for the benefit of the whole community.  The Council has reluctantly been forced to conclude from the BSLA’s stance that it does not share this aim.   

The present position is that if the BSLA is to retain any chance of arguing its claim to the control of the playing fields and the Pavilion, it must bring court proceedings by 30 May 2014.  If it does not, the Council will then take control of both and can then proceed to complete all outstanding works with a view to bringing them into full use as quickly as possible.  If the BSLA does bring court proceedings, the Council will defend them, and has been advised that its prospects of doing so successfully are very high.

The Parish Council would like to reassure residents that it is committed to protecting the playing fields as an extremely valuable asset and important village amenity and delivering a completed Pavilion. 

Bramham Parish Council