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Update on Kingsnorth Recreation Centre

Published: 10/05/2024
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Please find our updated statement and our position on Kingsnorth Recreation Centre. 

An Ashford Borough Council spokesperson said:

“After the Trust folded Kingsnorth Parish Council became the legal custodians of the centre and were able to continue running the centre for the local residents of the Parish. In addition, Ashford Borough Council offered the freehold of the site, by way of a gift, to the Parish Council, and committed to underwrite all maintenance for two years. However, Kingsnorth Parish Council decided that they did not want to run or own the Centre, leaving Ashford Borough Council with no alternative but to step in, to keep the centre operating.

“Over recent years the centre has not been well used. The Parish Council and a gym operation moved out, leaving the nursery as the sole remaining occupier. With significantly reduced income coming in the council was left with little option but to seek alternative interest from the market.

“The nursery were offered a lease from Ashford Borough Council in order to secure their longer term future at the centre regardless of whether it was sold, but they chose not to pursue this route, which sadly has left them in the situation they now face. We continue to hold discussions with the nursery over their future options.

UPDATE: Our previous statement (16/01/2024) referred to: ‘It’s important to note that the nursery is not affected by the sale and continues to occupy the centre.’

This was correct at the time, the nursery had a Tenancy at Will in place which transferred to the new owners, (which, effectively means both parties have the flexibility to end the agreement with a short notice period). Ashford Borough Council had offered Heads of Terms for a new lease to the nursery and negotiations continued to agree terms. The nursery were advised to seek their own legal advice which they confirmed was in place in March 2023.

Our position then, and now, remains the same. For the nursery to secure their long-term future, they need to sign a lease agreement, which is the case, whoever owns the building. They are effectively in the same situation with the new owners, they need to sign a lease to secure their long-term future.

We hope this clarifies this particular aspect.

“Also, to clarify, the current planning application is for the present use of the building to include public worship or religious instruction, but it will remain a community use building, as stipulated in the property covenants.

“The sale secures the continuing use of the building for community purposes for local residents as well as providing Ashford Borough Council with income to continue to provide services for all our residents in the wider borough.

“We have since spoken to the new owners who advise that they initially supported the nursery with repairs and offered them a shared use option moving forwards where the nursery continued to operate in the usual way Monday to Friday, with the Church using the nursery area at the weekends. Unfortunately, the nursery were not prepared to agree to this. 

“The new owners have offered to extend the current arrangement until the end of August 2024 and are reviewing other future commercial options with the nursery for a further year from August 2024 to August 2025.” 

Background information – A timeline of Kingsnorth Recreation Centre

Kingsnorth Recreation Centre (KRC) was built in 1997 using Section 106 contributions from Persimmon Homes and the freehold is owned by Ashford Borough Council. The title contains a restrictive covenant which ensures a retaining it for community use.

A Trust was set up to run KRC and it entered into a 99-year lease from the borough council on the building, with Kingsnorth Parish Council (KPC) acting as Custodian Trustee to administer the Trust. The Trust was set up in June 1998, under registered charity number 1069858.

Over three years ago, several Trustees left, and Ashford Borough Council stepped in to assist with running the centre and took on the responsibility for repairs. The building was in need of several areas of maintenance, which the borough council undertook.

Sometime later the remaining Trustees resigned, which resulted in the charitable trust being wound up and it was finally removed from the charity register in September 2022.

The parish council was left holding the remainder of the 99-year lease but decided it didn’t want to run the centre and took the decision to surrender their lease.

Due to the lack of use, and therefore income to maintain the building, the council took the decision to seek alternative users. The building was marketed on a ‘for sale or to let’ basis and a buyer was found.