160 members; Bob Parsons (chair; BP); Keith Swallow (secretary; KS)
Guests: Chris Paine (Martello Developments; CP); Rob Pollard (RX Architects; RP)
Due to the large numbers attending and needing to be signed in, the meeting did not open until 10:15am.
1.1 BP welcomed Chris Paine and Rob Pollard to the meeting
2.1 BP advised that Martello Developments Limited have already purchased the property (“Clonette”) to the east of our property, and obtained planning permission to build two 3-storey homes on the site.
2.2 The gist of their proposal is that they would take approximately half our site for further development and, in return, build us new premises on two levels.
2.3 BP advised that the purpose of the meeting was:
3.1 On behalf of the Trustees, James Blackman read the following statement:
The Trustees, whilst remaining impartial, believe that the correct course of action for them to take in this matter, is for the proposal from Martello Developments to be considered and for the committee to establish comprehensive details and put the proposal to the membership. This action by the Trustees does not imply that they are recommending that this development plan be adopted or otherwise.
4.1 Chris Paine, for Martello, advised the meeting that this is a generous offer made partly in the spirit of good neighbourly relations. It is in no way a “hostile takeover bid”. He has been a member of the Club himself, and did consider the possibility of paying for the Club to move to the Smuggler’s site, although this proposal had led nowhere. He had paid Rob Pollard to prepare the plans which are now displayed within the Club.
4.2 The proposal is for a “turnkey” build which means that it would be fully fitted out (including the kitchen), and ready to move into.
4.3 BP then invited questions to Chris from the floor.
Q1: Has car parking provision been considered, given that the new developments next door will presumably have an impact?
A1: on behalf of the Committee, KS advised that the club does not own the car park. It is leased from the Pett Level Preservation Trust, and there is no indication that arrangements will change in the future.
Q2: The plans do not appear to allow provision for a pool table. Is this an oversight?
A2: RP advised that the plans are not “set in stone” and there is opportunity to “tweak” them to allow eg for pool and darts facilities. Arrangements could also be made to move any pool table from a central position when the club is being used for other purposes.
Q3: How much space will be lost as a result of the proposal?
A3: The actual floor space will be slightly greater than existing, given the “overhang” of the first floor. It was acknowledged by the meeting, however, that various ‘inefficiencies’ (compared to the current building) will arise, for example the need to include a passenger lift and stairs to the first floor. There would necessarily be a significant restriction on the hosting of social events which cannot always be staged on two levels – including the annual Harvest Home event.
Q4: Other properties in the area are of three storeys. Could Martello build us something similar?
A4: CP advised that they did initially consider this but that it was rejected on cost grounds. To build the proposed 2-storey building would cost c£750k and they could not financially exceed this figure. Plans have allowed for generous ceiling heights. The Club might want to consider financing the cost of a third storey; the possibility of adding (eg) a roof terrace at a later date exists.
Q5: Would this building really cost £750k to construct?
A5: CP advised that this was probably less than a commercial cost, as they could utilise industry savings. Rob Shearer, for the Committee advised that indicative industry unit costs have been sought, which would confirm these figures.
Q6: Would there be any restrictions placed on our entertainment licence if the proposal were accepted, given the closer proximity of residential property?
A6: The licence should remain the same, and RP / CP advised that the same concerns had been raised when sheltered accommodation was being built in Hastings, in proximity to the Carlisle pub – but that this hadn’t restricted their music licence. However, it was acknowledged that new neighbours might formally protest.
Q7: A lot of members like to sit outside in the summer. How would the reduced plot space impact on this? Plans appear to show the outside space could accommodate up to 40 people but this seemed unrealistic. Further, how would the “overhang” of the first floor affect the quality of light?
A7: RP advised that he could revise plans to try and maximise outside space usage. It was acknowledged that the “overhang” would result in additional shadow in the evenings.
Q8: Finance – A number of members raised questions relating to finance, and whether the club is sufficiently solvent to remain as it currently is run, particularly if major repairs are required in the near future.
A8.1: Sue Harris, for the Committee, advised that the Club has some c£20k in available funds. This is not a significant amount for an organisation of our size, and any unexpected maintenance bills would have to be met from this source.
A8.2 A view was expressed that, given the costs of keeping the Club running, and if we don’t address the situation now, our best opportunity may be missed. It was also pointed out that, in the past, there had been talk of the Club adding a second storey, but that we had never been able to fund such an initiative. It has also proved exceptionally difficult to raise money for building repairs and funding streams that were once more freely available (eg brewery loans).
A8.3 It was agreed that, before any decision is taken on how to proceed, the Committee needs to obtain financial information relating to current and future maintenance costs, and determine the current state of the roof.
A8.4 It was also mentioned that, although a new build may initially have lower maintenance costs, this is not the case long term; and extra costs (eg lift servicing) will need to be taken into account.
Q9: Beach Club members are unlikely to be happy with the concept of unisex toilets, as shown on the plans. Can these be changed?
A9: RP advised that this is another part of the plans which can be changed.
Q10: How can we be sure that accepting the proposal would result only in closure of the facility for 10 months closure?
A10: CP advised that the construction would involve a steel frame box, which presents relatively few difficulties. Bad weather might be a problem, but sub-contractors would be subject to penalty clauses in the event of an overrun.
Q11: If we were to proceed with the proposal, what financial guarantees would apply should the developer go bust?
A11: CP advised that the £750k would be put into an escrow account.
Q12: If the Club is closed for 10 months, has consideration been given to compensating staff; and have future staffing costs been considered (if eg we are to run bars on two levels)?
A12: This is an issue of which the Committee is aware, and will be built into planning in the event of the proposal being taken forward.
Q13: Could a temporary facility be made available to allow us to stay open whilst building works are undertaken?
A13: CP advised that this would not be possible, given other constraints and pressures. If his proposal were to be accepted he would either build our new facility before the neighbouring apartment; or construct the two concurrently.
Q14 : Has any pre-planning advice been sought from the (Rother District) Council?
A14: BP advised that no planning application has been submitted yet. CP offered to cover the cost of and submit any plans in the name of the club so that ownership rests with the club.
Q15: Why have the views of members been sought now, when full details have not been prepared?
A15 : BP, RP and James Blackman (for the Trustees) advised that the need for urgency has arisen partly because of proposed planning changes which will affect Pett Level developments. Under such changes, it is unlikely that planning permission for the residential part of the plan would be achieved in the future. Legislation was originally going to come into force in April 2019 but has been delayed. The process is now at examination stage and a decision is with the inspector; whilst there is no deadline for him to report, the new legislation could come into force as early as January 2020. The Committee was keen to keep the Club members informed of developments, which was the purpose of this EGM.
Q16: If the proposal is not accepted, would Martello still be prepared to contribute towards the cost of “smartening” our building?
A16: CP confirmed that it would be of benefit to Martello for our premises to be smartened and that he might be prepared to pay a figure of up to £30k.
Q17 : If the proposal is declined, what is Martello’s position regarding our cess pit?
A17: It is the case that one of the Club’s cess pits sits within the adjacent (eastern) plot, but that the Club has right of access. However, CP advised that this is currently in a very poor state of repair, and Martello would not be prepared to allow pollution of their land. He is not prepared to foot the bill for repair, which could be in the region of £30k. Andy Dunlop, for the Club, advised that an impending law change (Jan 2020) could result in the Environment Agency closing down the Club in the event of such leakage / pollution.
5.1 Other views expressed included that “we are a small club and, despite its problems, it still “works””.
5.2 The issue of disabled access was also raised. Although this would be addressed within a new build, we may have to consider arrangements for disabled access if we continue in the current building.
6.1 If the membership decides not to progress the proposal, then the Committee will look at other options to fund development and / or identify and cost maintenance issues which need to be addressed in the shorter term.
6.2 There was a view expressed that some members may be prepared to buy shares in the Club as a way forward.
7.1 A show of hands was taken, which BP stressed was not in any way a binding vote. The intention was to gauge the mood of the members who were present, to ascertain whether there were strong feelings (either way). BP also confirmed that, should the proposal be taken to the next stage, the preferences of all members would be considered.
7.2 The show of hands indicated a slight preference (c37% ) for taking the proposal forward; c30% opposed, with c33% expressing no preference.
7.3 BP advised that the Committee will determine next steps. The Trustees will also be involved in the process, and the matter will be considered by a joint meeting of the Committee and Trustees on Tuesday 29 October. It is likely that a sub-committee will be formed to undertake further liaison with the developers. Ultimately, though, a decision will reside with the members (probably through a postal ballot).
7.4 In the meantime, a statement from the committee will be issued within the week.
The meeting closed at 11:35 am.