Since the Council decision on Tuesday to initiate legal action in relation to the three sites in Crewe (Ford Lane, Walker Street and Hulme Street) who have chosen to reject the offer of a direct lease from the Council questions have been raised from sites as to how this affects the individual plot holders who simply wish to continue their normal activities. The Council wishes to reassure those plot holders that they should not be concerned about their individual rights. Plot holders are valued customers and Council has made it the first priority to ensure those rights are maintained and that they are protected in law.
For clarity there are two strands to the legal action:
- As the lease has been rejected the Council must, as the land owner take control of the sites, via the courts if necessary. This will mean that there will continue to be a direct relationship between each plot holder and the Council. The Council will issue tenancy agreements, the plot holder will pay the appropriate rent to the Council and the Council will invest significant sums held in reserve to improve site infrastructure. In effect this returns the management arrangements to exactly as they were when Cheshire East managed the sites prior to April 2013. Council will wait until the legal action is complete before issuing the necessary agreements. Plot holders should not hand over any monies to any party other than directly to the Town Council. If monies have been paid for 2016/7 those monies have been collected without lawful authority and should be returned to plot holders immediately.
- The second part of the legal action is to recover monies paid by plot holders to those individuals that have collected the rent without authority from the Council over the past three years. The sum outstanding is significant and of course is owed to the public purse as the Council holds the land on behalf of all the tax payers in Crewe. Council has noted that the site handbook for Ford Lane/Hulme Street claims that the association is the Landlord (see extract below). This claim is quite simply false as no permission has been given for anyone but the Council to take a rent. The taking of rent is the ‘unlawful’ activity referred to in Council minutes. Only those individuals that have collected money or been involved in issuing legal agreements with plot holders should be concerned about this part of the legal action. In legal terms no rent may be taken without a lease or licence from the Council as owner of the land.
Council regrets that these actions are necessary and refutes suggestions of discrimination. All eleven sites have exactly the same options i.e. to join the Federation or seek a direct lease. As the management arrangements and circumstances between the two options differ the leases available to all sites will out of necessity be different depending on the option chosen by the sites. Council has made clear that following long negotiations and significant concessions by the Council the terms of the direct lease represents a final offer.
Council hopes that this statement aids understanding at individual plot holder level. If the three sites do not wish to join the Federation then Council has made clear they are free to reject that option. The direct lease will remain on the table and Council has made clear that it can be subject to a review in three years when it is hoped that relations will have improved and the sites have demonstrated a capability to manage the sites effectively and to work with the Council.
Council understands that there is a site meeting due tomorrow (Saturday) and encourages all plot holders to attend, express their views and encourage those negotiating with the Council to accept the offer of a lease and thereby seize the opportunity to avert legal action and to demonstrate over the next three years the ability to effectively and transparently manage the sites.
If plot holders wish to discuss their concerns then they are welcome to contact the Council on 01270 756975 to discuss those concerns and ask any questions they may have.