Guildhall

By   30 January 2017

8/2/17

Today we have received a response to our recent FOI, from Garey Carey, Property Client Manager for several different Councils…

The full response is printed below, his replies are in red:-

Dear Sir/Madam,

With reference to your FOI requests Numbers 16/964, 16/965 and 16/966. Please see below for our responses. I trust that you will find these responses to be in order.

Part 1 – FOI Request 16/964

We have seen the article (below), published  in the Herald today, so could you please address the following points so that we can inform the residents of Abingdon, before their towns assets are gifted/frittered away again.

  • Could you please assure us, and the residents of Abingdon, that this is not just a through-the back-door attempt by the Vale’s favoured development company, Cranbourne Homes, aka Poolway, aka Orchard Developments Ltd, aka Orchard Homes, to gain planning permission to build luxury flats on the car-park of the Upper Reaches?The Council is the freehold owner of the Upper Reaches site.  There is a lease to Contemporary Hotels which regulates what the site can be used for.  This has not changed since the lease has started.
  • Will there be any caveat, stating that this land cannot be sold off or sub-leased to ANY of the Cranbourne subsidiaries, or companies owned wholly or partly by their directors. (Seeing as how they asset stripped Abingdon and shafted the taxpayers over the Old Gaol debacle, they should never be allowed to purchase another property from the Council, ever!)  The Council under landlord and tenant law is required to consider any request to assign the lease and is limited to what control it can exert and will consider any request on its merits accordingly.
  • We understand that The Hon. Ambar Paul, has less than 30 years left on the lease, so we would like to know if that has, or soon will be negotiated to an extension? It must be as the current leaseholder is considering, backed and seemingly approved by Cllr Sandy Lovatt, (according to the Herald article), building on that land. The current lease runs to 2094, i.e. 77 years remaining, not 30 years.
  • According to Companies House the VWHDC already has a charge of £75,000 (seventy five thousand pounds) against the leaseholder?  Is this charge for unpaid rent?  No. The tenant is up to date on all rent payments. 

Part 2 – FOI Request 16/965

  • With the knowledge that the leaseholder is going to partition and subsequently dispose of part of the site for building, isn’t the Council failing to act in the Publics best interest, in that, armed with this knowledge, (that the leaseholder plans to sub-let), the Council should be seeking to partition the lease, leaving the leaseholder with the hotel, (which is what will eventually happen), but then, through public tender, offer the car park as a potential building site which in turn will give the Council, (and its tax payers) the profits from this sale of prime land?  Nothing has been agreed with the current tenant.
  • Why does the Council believe it’s in our/the publics best interest to allow the leaseholder and a third party (the builder) to make huge profits from publically owned assets? That is not the Council’s intention.
  • Depending on the Councils reply to this F.O.I request, the Council should be aware that the Ombudsman will be called upon to inspect and scrutinise this deal in its entirety so as to avoid a repeat of the Old Gaol fiasco. Noted.
  • Can we be assured that any monies made from the selling off of Abingdon’s assets, will this time be put back into Abingdon, rather than funding the Vale’s other flagship towns? Abingdon is badly in need of facilities, a proper cinema, leisure facilities, another river crossing. None of these will ever happen if we keep asset stripping to line the pockets of developers and upgrade other towns! Any capital receipts from the sale of properties are put into the Vale’s capital receipts programme and spent in accordance with its capital strategy.
  • The Right Hon. Ambar Paul, and the developers will make millions from this, and Abingdon will lose out once again.  Please can you assure us that this won’t happen?  The Council cannot speculate on a deal which has not been agreed.  At this stage, no proposal has been submitted.

Part 3 – FOI Request 16/966

Article from Herald.

The company responsible for The Upper Reaches in Abingdon is carving out a fresh future for the site, likely to involve a mix of hotel and residential space.

The leaseholder, Contemporary Hotels Ltd, revealed to the Oxford Mail that it will soon seek permission to revitalise the building in Thames Street, which was deemed ‘derelict-looking’ by a councillor.

Company director The Hon. Ambar Paul, whose family also owns Caparo Hotels, said: “I’m hoping to get a scheme that I’ve suggested will be mixed use. To me that’s the most interesting thing for the site.

“There is potential there. It needs to be a combination; something more than just a hotel, to make it viable. My intention and my desire is to have a scheme that has both [a hotel and residential accommodation]. Hopefully everyone realises this is the best alternative to [just] a hotel.”

He said he hopes to submit a planning application to Vale of White Horse District Council, which owns The Upper Reaches, in the next month to six weeks.

Mr Paul said the hotel closed in June 2015 because ‘there just wasn’t that much demand in Abingdon’.

Last week the company published its annual report which noted that The Upper Reaches was set to be sold after its closure but the deal ‘fell through’.

The report revealed that ‘another offer has also been received’ but Mr Paul insisted that the company itself will be pursuing the new scheme, adding: “It’s something I’d like to do myself. I hope the council supports the scheme.”

District council leader Matthew Barber has previously said that Contemporary Hotels’ long-term lease only allows the site to house up to six flats.

Mr Paul would not what type of residences he planned to create or how many, but confirmed that redevelopment would involve the whole site including surrounding land. At this stage no proposal has been submitted. 

Yours sincerely,

Gary Carey

Gary I Carey MBIFM

Property Client Manager

5 Councils Partnership

(Hart District Council, Havant Borough Council, Mendip District Council, South Oxfordshire District Council, Vale of White Horse District Council)

 

Well DESPITE, what icba1957 thinks, (Oxford Mail comments)

“This lot really would struggle to run a bath …
Did they even get as far as approaching a cinema chain (which costs nothing) or any other large corporation?
Whatever happened to the complete waste of time and money that was Abingdon First?”

Ab1 is still here, (not sure what money he thinks we have wasted, unless he/she knows something that we don’t?)

We have submitted an FOI to the Vale, on 27th Jan on this matter, and are awaiting their response.

27/1/17

Regarding the fiasco of the Guildhall “cinema”.

 Could we please have a full breakdown of all costs involved with this, down to the last penny?

What monies were spent on “fact-finding”, entertaining, soft-soaping, of potential cinema operators?

Iain Littlejohn, who was responsible for this at the outcome, keeps saying (Abingdon Blog comments), that there was a commercially viable operator who could have made this work. Is this so, and who was this operator. (Cannot be commercially sensitive now that there is no longer a potential for a cinema) , and if so why wasn’t this operator taken up on this?

Will any councillors responsible for this, (past or present), be held to account for wasting tax-payers money?

If icba1957 would like to contact us, and explain just why he/she thinks that AbingdonFirst is a “complete waste of time and money”, then by all means do….we would love to hear your thoughts icba1957.

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