MANWEB PLAYING FIELDS:
MORE CAUSE FOR CONCERN
In our last Newsletter we said that we had written to the City Solicitor asking for assurances about the enforcement of the lease of the Olive Mount (ex-Manweb) Sports Ground. On 6th May we received a reply from Liverpool City Council's Head of Property Services, as follows: "I can confirm that a formal notice seeking rectification of the various breaches of the lease is being finalised and this should be issued later on this week. As legally required the Council will have to give the lessees reasonable time to remedy the breaches and the Council will be monitoring progress in respect of this."
Meanwhile rumours had begun to circulate about a 'deal' involving the lessees (Messrs Chetwood & Pearce, a.k.a. ISM or 'Integrated Sports Management') and Jericho Lane playing fields. It was said that the City Council was considering allowing the building of 100 houses at Olive Mount, in return for ISM developing a football training facility at Jericho Lane. The payment to Messrs Chetwood & Pearce would be £4million, i.e. 50% of the 'unrestricted freehold' value of the Olive Mount Sports Ground, as a 'reward' for surrendering the lease. Not a bad return on their initial £40,000 investment!
We fail to see how the Council could consider agreeing to such an arrangement, when the lease has already been flagrantly breached by the current lessees; the playing fields and clubhouse having been abandoned and the perimeter fencing etc. having been neglected. Furthermore we have yet to see any evidence that ISM have experience of sport-related development or management.
Cllr Jake Morrison called a meeting on 8th May at which Cllr Malcolm Kennedy (Cabinet Member for Regeneration) addressed members of OBWRA - the Olive Branch Wavertree Residents Association - and other concerned local residents. The result was a meeting with LCC's Director of Regeneration, who agreed to look into OBWRA's 'community led' plans for the ex-Manweb fields and to get back to them. However, as yet, neither we nor OBWRA have heard anything further from Council officers.
We have now written to the Mayor of Liverpool and to LCC's Chief Executive, seeking assurances that the rumours we have heard are unfounded. The questions we have asked them are as follows:
1. What is the annual NNDR (Business Rates) payable on the Olive Mount Sports Ground?
2. What is the estimated annual expenditure necessary in order to satisfy the maintenance obligations as set out in the Lease?
3. Taking account of the annual expenditure required for NNDR and maintenance, what is the estimated capital value of the Lease? If greater than £40,000, why? If greater than zero, why?
4. Given the legal requirement, under the terms of the Lease, to rebuild the clubhouse and reinstate the boundary fencing to the state it was in in 1995, why should the Lessee be unwilling to surrender the Lease at NO COST to the Freeholder (i.e. Liverpool City Council)?
5. Why should ISM be entitled to ANY PART of the enhanced value of the Sports Ground resulting from the granting of planning permission for housing or other non-sport-related development?
6. What evidence is there that ISM are capable of running a sports facility? What evidence is there that ISM are capable of assessing the need for and/or designing a sports facility?
7. What sources of funding would be available to ISM but not to OBWRA?
8. Have any of the 1,000 people (local residents?) who ISM claim are in favour of this proposal been contacted by the Council to verify whether they:
(i) are actually in favour of the ISM scheme;
(ii) realised that the plan described was not the OBWRA scheme; and
(iii) realised that the offer of financial assistance to the WGS Institute was conditional on matching funding being obtained from other sources?
If so, what was the outcome?
As soon as the answers are received, we shall post them on our website.