There have been several letters in the Farnham Herald recently about the question of the legality of Waverley Borough Council (WBC) relocating the Gostrey Centre into the Memorial Hall. Mark Westcott also spoke at The Farnham Society AGM on Tuesday 3 May about his views on WBC’s current proposals.
WBC granted themselves planning permission on 26 August 2015 to alter and extend the Memorial Hall, described as an existing multi-use community facility, to provide additional community services. Several residents of Farnham objected to the proposals, based on the location away from the town centre, the poor appearance of the proposed design, the impact that the shared use would have on existing users and the appalling impact that the extension would have on the Memorial Hall aesthetically.
What has been highlighted recently, Spring 2016, is the blatant disregard that WBC has shown for the Deed of Gift from Farnham United Breweries.
Farnham United Breweries Limited gifted the Hall and Sports Ground to Farnham Urban District Council in October 1947 ‘for the benefit of and use and enjoyment by the inhabitants of the Urban District of Farnham’. Clause 2 stated that ‘The Hall shall be maintained by the Council and shall primarily be used for the purposes of organised indoor games, dancing and physical training and the Sports Ground shall be maintained as such and shall primarily be used for organised outdoor games, Sports and physical training’
Clause 2 continues ‘but the Council may permit the Hall and/or Sports Ground to be used for any activity of an educational culture social recreative or charitable nature which the Council shall in its discretion deem to be a normal and desirable activity for such a Hall and/or Sports Ground and the Council shall in particular give consideration to (a) organised childrens Sports and the training therefor and (b) the meetings of the Farnham Elementary Schools Association and the training therefor.’
The important words are ‘Council may permit’ and ‘shall in its discretion deem to be a normal and desirable activity’. The Gostrey Centre currently provides a range of services to the elderly between 9am and 4pm. It must be questioned whether the Gostrey Centre relocating to the Memorial Hall will effectively prevent the many other users being able to use the Hall as they have, negating the Gostrey Centre use being considered a desirable activity in the terms of the Deed of Gift.
The approved proposals for the Memorial Hall which enable the Gostrey Centre to relocate to the Hall breach the conditions of the Deed. The Deed states that ‘The Council shall not build or allow to be built upon any part of the said premises any building or erection other than in connection with the objects specified in Clause 2 above’. It seems that Waverley would potentially be in direct contravention of this clause.
Yes, the Gostrey Centre carries out highly commendable social and charitable work but doing so in the Memorial Hall will be contrary to the Deed and exclude or restrict the purposes for which the Hall was gifted to the residents of Farnham.
What would the descendants of the owners of Farnham United Breweries think ? What would the descendants of the members of staff of Farnham United Breweries who died in the service of their country in the First World War think ?
Especially this year, when Farnham commemorated the 100th anniversary of the first ever recorded two-minute silence.
The extension and refurbishment works to the Hall are due to start next month, June 2016,
Contact one of your Ward Town Councillors http://www.farnham.gov.uk/town-council/councillors2015 and / or your Borough Councillors (hyperlink HL6) and express your dissatisfaction if you feel that Waverley are acting in an inappropriate manner, disregarding the clearly stated Covenants attached to the Deed of Gift.
Proposed Redevelopment of the Memorial Hall Sports Ground for Housing
Also recently, the issue of Farnham Town Football Club relocating to Brambledon Park in Weydon Lane has been in the headlines, (hyperlink HL7), the intimation being that the cost of the relocation would be funded by the development of the Memorial hall Sports Ground for housing. Covenants in the Deed of Gift state, as above, that the Council shall not build on the Sports Ground unless in accordance with Clause 2, above, which states that it should be used only for organised outdoor games, Sports, etc.
The expenditure of an estimated £50,000 of public money has been authorised to undertake a feasibility study of relocating the Football Club to Brambledon Park. It could be argued that public money should not be spent taking legal advice on how to get around the terms of the Covenants in the Deed of Gift unless it is self evident that circumstances have changed so much from the time of the Gift that it is now in the interests of the residents of Farnham that overruling the Covenants is justified.
It has been acknowledged that there is a shortage of recreational space in Farnham and across the Waverley Borough, so building houses on the land would be contrary to that aim.
Yes, Farnham does need new houses, but to sacrifice the Sports Ground is an unacceptable step. Building on the Sports Ground would send an unfortunate message to any current or future benefactors considering gifting community facilities to the residents of Farnham, knowing that their wishes would very likely be ignored.
If you think it is completely wrong and inappropriate for Waverley to fund the relocation of the Football Club by selling off the Memorial Hall Sports Ground for a housing development, please express your concern by contacting your local Councillor, details in the hyperlink above.