The controversy over ‘Your Waverley’s’ decision not to renew Broadwater Park Golf Club’s lease – took another turn this week.
A bid by a Tory threesome led by former Leader Julia Potts wanted to stymie a decision made by the council’s executive in July. But the bid failed.
She and two colleagues wanted to stop the council spending £50,000 on an options appraisal for the 8-acre golf club site in Godalming, plus £20,000 on possible legal fees.
Despite over three hours of talks, most of which was held behind closed doors, the special Overview & Scrutiny Committee ‘call-in” was thrown out by five votes to three with one abstention.
The Executive wants to spend £50,000 on independent professional advice to get the best value for a council asset once leased to the golf club. This followed a furore in May when the club announced that its lease would not be renewed. A media storm and a series of clashes during council meetings followed. The Waverley Web believes one spat between councillors may end up with the council’s Standards Board.
Elstead’s Aunty Elsey – v – Mr Deputy.
The £20,000 was earmarked for possible legal fees for any dispute that may result in the change of direction with the golf club’s owners.
The nub of the Tory group’s argument centred around the new Rainbow Coalition’s ‘failure of process.’ The Tory’s complaining that the council’s decision not to renew the lease had not been explained properly.
The other three musketeers: Cllrs Stephen Mulliner, John Gray and Simon Dear argued there had been a lack of consultation with the ward members, local residents and the former leaseholders. Saying that an Executive that boasted of its transparent and open approach to business was anything but. They argued that the decision was “unsound” and needed further scrutiny to prevent taxpayers’ money being wasted at a time when Waverley’s finances were being challenged. Fencing the site on health and safety grounds would add to the costs.
Cllr Potts claimed the site had numerous planning constraints saying only a small part could be used and even this was limited to education or community use.
Mark Merryweather, chairman of the Executive, which had backed the plan said:
“We are concerned that the requesters may have formed the opinion that the site’s alternative value for money potential is so low that the cost of an independent professional options appraisal is disproportionate, and that no evidence has been presented to support that.
“The simple issue is that the view expressed by the requesters differs with the recommendation of our officers, which was itself based on Montagu Evans’ initial preliminary independent professional analysis, which clearly indicates otherwise.”
He said when the decision was made in July he had explained that the legal costs represent a contingent, but a necessary provision, that may not need to be spent. The Executive had no reason to differ with the recommendations, which were also based on independent professional advice.”
The agenda for the July 8th meeting of the executive states: “The Council’s Property Investment Strategy documents the Council’s proposals in relation to Value for Money, the need for the Council to maximise the financial benefit from its assets, and to consider the development opportunities for those assets where appropriate.”
And later, it states: “In order to demonstrate the Council is actively pursuing the development opportunity of the site, work needs to continue to the next phase of the options appraisal.”
An Exempt session lasted almost two hours. After which it was a recommendation to continue with the Executive’s decision by five votes to three – with one abstention.