2, 2015 Councillor
speaks out after delays to decision on Apex Park BMX plans
decision on whether controversial proposals to lease part of Highbridge's
Apex Park to holiday firm Bourne Leisure has been delayed until
January, it was revealed on Monday (November 2nd).
from Sedgemoor District Council to grant Bourne Leisure a 50-year
ground lease for the existing BMX cycling site at Apex Park have
been opposed by local residents and local councillors. A decision
was expected this month.
Highbridge district councillor Roger Keen, picturedabove,
spoke out about the surprise delay during Monday's Burnham and
Highridge Town Council meeting.
consultation has dragged on long enough and the timetable is against
us, so therefore it is time to announce our stand," he said.
"We oppose the transfer of the lease from the BMX Club to
Bourne Leisure or any other commercial organisation."
what he described as a 'personal position statement' from both
him and his wife - Cllr Janet Keen - he explained that neither
would be able to attend the district council meeting in January
when the decision is due to be taken.
to the fact that the decision on Apex Park has now been put back
to january as there has been a change of portfolio holder and
that person has indicated that she would wish to review all information
before it is discussed at the Executive meeting of SDC, against
both of our requests not to do so, neither Janet or I will be
able to attend ad out our case forward, nor will we be able to
attend full council in January. Our absence during this period
was planned and arranged long before the May elections."
continued: "Therefore, as Highbridge and Burnham Marine district
councillors we have decided to issue a position statement that
we will request be presented at both the Executive meeting in
January and full council if this topic goes to their agenda. We
have taken advice from SDC legal department and our making of
this statement is perfectly acceptable and does not contravene
"Some time ago Bourne Leisure who operate the Holiday village
in Marine Drive approached Sedgemoor District Council with a proposal
- that they would fund the BMX Club's move to their desired larger
premises, upgrade the Apex Rangers Office, extend the building
to include a cafe and upgrade the public toilets."
"In return they would require the space vacated by the BMX
Club to be the leased to them for a very long term - 50 years
has been mentioned but not confirmed to us - and permission to
place a number of hard standings for mobile homes and caravans.
The financial reward to SDC if they permitted this transaction
is as yet unclear."
"Our personal view is that the BMX area inside its fence
is substantial and abuts woodland and open park with pathways
around. After considering the proposal from Bourne Leisure and
listening to the range of views of local people and also regular
park users who may not be local but visit to appreciate the tranquillity
and beauty of the park and its wildlife, we could not support
the Bourne proposal."
"Our reasons for opposition are - Apex Park is not a commercial
or industrial site for development and exploitation; Any lease
signed with a commercial organisation would be for a long period
and thus could be described as a 'legacy' transaction - in essence
our next generation would inherit the landlord responsibilities."
He continued: "Such commercial leases would not have an
'exit' clause for SDC and breaking a lease would be very expensive
with compensations etc. We do not know what the future holds or
if circumstances should change for SDC. What if Bourne Leisure
Holdings Ltd with its group of companies and all their assets
were acquired by another company? It is a British private company
registered in Guernsey, Channel Islands. First Ovalap Ltd is the
largest shareholder in the Bourne Leisure group of companies,
representing 97% of the issued share capital and holding 43% of
shares with voting rights. A lease on any part of Apex Park would
be just another asset with a balance sheet value, just a piece
of paper on the desk of the faceless person far away from here.
Under a scenario of change of ownership, the land could be in
a limbo whilst lawyers on all sides took the time to arrive at
"This alone seems contrary to good governance practice by
local authorities and we believe would be criticised by an impartial
audit committee. As local representatives it is our duty to represent
the views of the majority and in this instance we believe that
the majority of the many who have spoken personally to us do not
want to see that corner of Apex Park least to a holiday home provider
for an unknown but considerable number of years."
"It is also our view that the local majority are not tempted
by the financial gains by way of rent which would be paid to SDC."
resident Brian Burt, pictured right, welcomed the statement
from Cllr Keen, saying that it was "I am extremely pleased
with the statement from Roger Keen - it's what we've wanted. I
do question why the decision has been delayed, though - I think
it's been delayed because Sedgemoor are still trying to understand
the full implications of the proposals - this is an extremely
month, Mr Burt urged councillors: "Please do not let any
part of Apex Park be turned into a caravan park. The district
council purchased and developed Apex for the benefit of local
people, therefore every square metre should be retained for future
generations. More so now, considering the hundreds of homes to
be constructed in Highbridge."
proposal is to rob Apex Park of a second area which is twice the
size of the existing car park. It would become a 'no go area'
for 50 years, if not forever, full of more caravans."
Highbridge town councillor John Parkes, who recently described
Apex Park as Highbridge's "jewel in the crown", told
Burnham-On-Sea.com after Monday's evening he "applauds"
the statement from Cllr Keen. "It's good that the strength
of feeling in Highbridge is now understood," he added.
District Council spokeswoman Claire Faun recently told Burnham-On-Sea.com:
"The land that the BMX Track is situated on within Apex Park
is leased from Sedgemoor District Council. The BMX track and land
are not available for public use but are used by the club for
training and events. The BMX Club would like to expand and are
considering relocating to a different site locally, thus terminating
their current lease. This proposal would exclude housing developments
as the land will not be sold but leased on a long-term basis."
district council - in exchange for offering a 50-year lease to
another party for the BMX site - could secure some funding to
enhance the facilities in the park, for example creating an all-weather
year-round café facility, improving the toilet facilities
and/or extending the park building to allow for increased educational
and event use."
proposals will be considered in January 2016 by Sedgemoor's Executive.
of the full statement from Cllr Roger Keen:
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