Annual report 2019

Chairmans Report 2019

With the 2019 Local elections looming fast it is time to take stock of our

position and look to the future.

The Campaign to save Deangate began on 29th January 2018 when Medway

council gave notice (only 5 clear days) that it’s Cabinet, under the leadership

of Councillor Alan Jarrett would consider a decision brought forward by

Councilor Howard Doe to close the Deangate ridge Golf course (open in

1972) on the 6th February 2018.

The decision was to be taken without any public consultation and without

proper notice of intent. Golfers, residents and the public alike were incensed

by the injustice of the lack of proper notice and lack of public consultation over

the closure of this much loved community asset.

A public petition was quickly prepared for the Cabinet meeting asking the

council to consider new business models to increase income or to tender the

management of the club to a private provider prior to a decision of closing the

club as part of a proper viability assessment started both online at Change.org

and by physically signature.

The public took up the challenge of signing the petition in time for the meeting

and some 1215 physical signatures were collected by 2pm on the 4th

February 2018. Cabinet did not acknowledge the petition and the decision

was taken to close Deangate on 31st March 2018.

By 16th February a further 426 signatories were collected online at change.org

and 2105 physically making a total of 3746. It also became clear that there

were now four options open:-

• To have the decision to closed Deangate revisited by having it called

into the Overview and scrutiny Committee and that committee

overturning the decision, referring it to full council or refer it back to the

cabinet for review.

• To attempt to broker an Expression of Interest between a leading

National charitable sports provider who specialises in running golf

courses.

• To set up a financial fund to be able to refer the whole legal process to

judicial review.

• To register the whole of the Deangate complex as an Asset of

Community Value.

Call in

• With the Help of Andrew Stamp of the Medway Labour group who sits on the

Regeneration, Culture and Environment Overview And Scrutiny

Committee, the cabinet decision to close Deangate was called into the

Overview and Scrutiny committee. The Chairman Trevor Clarke gave notice

that he would allow six petitioners to address the committee for 5 minutes

each. The meeting was held at St Georges Centre on the evening of the 12th

March 2018 and was attended by a very large number of petitioners. The six

DCP members Joanne De La Porte, George Crozer, Vicky Finneran, Steff

Malone, Ron Sands and Tom Crozer (on behalf of Geoff Westlake) presented

their arguments against the Closure of Deangate. Medway Labour group

supported with very convincing arguments to have the decision over turned

and reviewed by the full Council. The final vote taken was in favour of

referring the decision to close back to the Cabinet.

Expression of Interest (EOI)

Under the Localism Act 2011 An EOI gives the community, in conjunction with

a partner, the right to challenge aims to give communities more opportunities

to shape and run local public services where they believe they can do so

better or cheaper,

With the knowledge of the call in it was now of paramount importance to

prepare an Expression of Interest.

Through its contacts the group approached a leading charity, which was well

known for providing golf facilities. A representative of the charity visited the

course and was confident and enthusiastic that they could profitably run the

course during an interim period required for due diligence to take place

between the Council and the charity. The representative was also confident

that Deangate could make a welcome addition to the charities portfolio whilst

giving Medway council a reasonable financial return. In consultation with the

representative a detailed EOI was prepared on this basis and submitted to

Medway Council on the afternoon of 12th March 2018 and before the Call in

meeting at 6.30pm

The Cabinet now had an Expression of interest to run Deangate at a profit and

the recommendation of the Overview and scrutiny committee to review the

decision to close. A special cabinet meeting was called for the 28th March

2018. At that meeting the decision to close Deangate was reconsidered and

closure reaffirmed with a new date of the 14th April 2018. Officers were asked

to consider the EOI during which time no demolition on the site was to take

place. At a cabinet meeting of the 12th June 2018.

It considered a report providing an assessment of the expression of interest,

submitted to the Council by the Deangate Community Partnership, to deliver

community sport, wellbeing and leisure activities at the Deangate Ridge Golf

and Sports Complex.

The report noted that the Council had received a letter dated 16 April 2018

from the charity which stated that the expression of interest had been

submitted without their authority or agreement.

The Council report explained that the expression of interest had met the

requirements of Section 81(1)(a) of the Localism Act 2011 and therefore the

Council was required to consider whether the expression of interest met the

requirements set out in Section 81(1)(b) of the Act.

The Council report also explained ten grounds on which the expression of

interest may be rejected and concluded that the expression of interest be

rejected on six grounds. It was duly rejected.

Asset of Community Value.

In England, an asset of community value (ACV) is land or property of

importance to a local community which is subject to additional protection

from development under the Localism Act 2011.

A nomination to have the Land Known as Deangate Ridge was submitted

before the cabinet meeting of 28th March 2018. It was acknowledged as

correct and submitted to Medways legal department on 10 April 2018 and

approved on 1st June 2018.

judicial review.

In consultation with its Solicitors the only option open to us now was to

attempt to mount a legal Challenge.

Before we could proceed to this stage Barristers would have to confirm a good

chance of success, as the process would be extremely costly and would

involve a member of the group becoming personably liable for costs should

the challenge fail. Pledges of financial support for the first phase requiring

around £10,000 were solicited from members of the group and the general

public. A crowd funding web site called Crowd Justice was engaged.

Donations totaling £8795.55 were received by direct donation and £2311.09

was raised via the crowd Justice website. The Crowd Justice donations were

paid and held by the Solicitor whilst public donations were held in a bank

account.

Crowd Justice terms required a minimum level to be reached before fund

could be released and required a top up to enable from direct donations.

Our solicitors (Tassells) were instructed to seek an opinion from Barristers at

Landmark Chambers.

Our Barrister carefully consider the actions of the Council with a view to

finding a legal error, for example breach of a duty to consult or flawed decision

making amounting to ‘irrationality’. He remarked “We have been hunting for

conclusive evidence but it may be concluded that the Council have been

particularly careful in the main to avoid saying anything that might create real

difficulties for them.” And further remarked “This all needs to be put in the

context of the remedy of Judicial Review generally. It is always very difficult to

bring a challenge against a Local Authority’s budgetary and/or policy

decisions. The Courts are extremely reluctant to interfere in such matters.

In summing up he suggested pursuing our Expression of Interest and trying to

find a recreational use for the site. “This would need to go hand in hand with

strong participation in the Local Plan process, and it is reasonably clear that

there are good arguments to support this, not to mention the volte-face which