'Level playing field' in new club facility rent charges across East Devon

PUBLISHED: 19:30 26 August 2016

Archant

There will be winners and losers after district chiefs revealed that all sports clubs will be charged on a level playing field for their facilities.

East Devon District Council (EDDC) leases premises to 37 organisations, but what they pay can vary significantly from club to club due to historical arrangements.

Some have benefited from reduced rents, while others have not, so the authority has announced a new rent support grant – and that it will start charging the market rate.

Sidmouth Bowls Club looks set to be affected from 2018/19. David Hughes, the secretary of the 108-year-old club, attended a recent workshop on the proposals. He said: “A shared concern raised at the meeting was that those organisations which, through the efforts of their volunteers, were financially viable and held reserves would be penalised by the new system.

“This was denied, but if balancing the books is truly an objective, who else will be able to make an added contribution?”

He questioned the application process, claiming he was ‘categorically’ told there would be no discussions and no site visits to assist the assessments.

“This cannot be right and it is certainly not objective,” said Mr Hughes.

“Any financial impact of this scheme will be borne by the membership and, as we all know, the more expensive an optional activity becomes, the greater the fallout which follows.

“I would think this is true of all the clubs involved and the council need to have regard to the fact.”

The new charges affect clubs as diverse as Sidmouth Sailing and Sea Angling Club and the Norman Lockyer Observatory, and also the scout facilties in Ottery.

Councillor Ian Thomas, who chairs the grants application panel, said: “The new grants scheme is all about having a fair, accountable system to help those who merit financial support.

“It’s about making sure that our limited funds reach the right groups and organisations.”

All clubs will be liable to pay market rent for their facility by the council from their next rent review or lease renewal date.

EDDC will also conduct a rent valuation, taking into account such factors as the size of the facility, the terms of the lease and the uses of the site.

Decisions on grants will look at the benefits the club brings to the community and what they are doing to recruit new members or improve their facilities.

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