“Stalemate” in negotiations between sports club and St Neots Town Council

St Neots.

St Neots. - Credit: Archant

A dispute between a sports club and St Neots Town Council has reached a “stalemate” after the club’s offer to pay £36,000 for the land on which its building sits was turned down.

St Neots Table Tennis Club wants to own the freehold of the site on Riversmead so they can make long-awaited improvements to the facility.

They say that freehold tenure would help them to obtain grants and save money which could be used to revamp the building.

However, St Neots Town Council’s Finance Committee rejected their proposal at a meeting on November 25.

They are prepared to offer them a long-term lease instead, which could allow them to meet the terms of their funding agreements.

They explained that this is the general precedent for sports clubs, and protects the future of the land for the town.

Town Clerk Ed Reilly said: “It’s a public asset and we think it should stay in the public’s hands. There is absolutely no need for them to own the building to provide the facilities.”

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While the club said that they may be prepared to accept a long-term lease, there is expected to be disagreement over the rates charged.

From 1976 until 2004, they rented the land at a cost of just £5 per year – which saw a dramatic spike when terms were re-agreed.

They now pay £2750 each year, which they say is disproportionate to the rates paid by the Air Training Corps which share the site.

To complicate matters further, an application to register the land as a town green is currently being considered by Cambridgeshire County Council.

This means that the terms of the lease cannot be finalised until a decision has been reached on whether the land should be protected, which may take several months.

Roger Howard, booking officer and a former chairman and vice-chairman of the club, said: “We are trying to get a grant to make the heating and lighting more efficient, a rubber floor surface for the courts and to improve the car park.

“At the moment it’s a stalemate until they make a decision.”

St Neots Town Councillor Barry Chapman added:“From a Town Council perspective we want to ensure that the facility stays in St Neots.

“We also want to do anything we can to support the club and see that they thrive.”