Council recommend Freedom Leisure to run controversial Princes Parade Leisure Centre

Updated @18:43 19/01/22

The Council have announced who their preferred operator could be for the Leisure Centre which might be built on Princes Parade.

Report Number:C/21/75, which goes before the Cabinet on the 26 Jan 2020, sets out Folkestone & Hythe District Council recommend the contract for the operation of the leisure Centre,  at Princes Parade, be given to Freedom Leisure, also known as – Wealden Leisure Ltd, for the period of ten years with a possible extension of a further five years.

The aggregate management fee over ten years is anticipated to be £1,758,431. This fee is payable by the leisure operator to the Council. This means that it will take approximately 140 years for the council to recoup the £23 million investment by the council. Is that value for money?

Wealden Leisure Ltd is a mutual registered society, and the society is registered with the Financial Conduct Authority. It commercial address is The Paddock 1 – 6 Carriers Way, East Hoathly, East Sussex, BN8 6AG.

The Freedom Leisure Management reviews on Indeed are not flattering at all of the management and run to three pages of mainly very unhappy former employees.

Regarding the Stopping Up Order, the Inspector has written to the Secretary of State who has not, at the time of writing, announced his decision. This though is expected shortly [The stopping up order has been hand down today 19/01/22 in favor of the Council. There press release can be read here]. Now the Save Princes Parade Campaign, has a period of 6 weeks to launch a Judicial Review (JR).

At the time of writing it is not known if this SPP will submit a JR. We suspect, and hope, the Save Princes Parade campaign will apply for a JR, if there are grounds for doing so. Moreover, during this period should a JR of the decision be allowed, there will be a significant amount of further spending as the scheme progresses. In order to maintain progress delivering the scheme, Cabinet is asked to confirm their intentions to maintain momentum and to press ahead while accepting this risk, with further legal advice being taken and reported to the Leader and relevant portfolio holders, depending on the outcome of the Secretary of State’s decision and if any further challenge is lodged and progressed. Not to progress the scheme at risk will mean further delays with the potential loss of planning due to permissions effectively being “timed out” in particular in relation to the residential planning permission.

An oral update will be provided at the Cabinet meeting on the 26 Jan, 2022, if there is anything further to report on the matter. If the Council is successful in achieving the stopping up order, it will need to consider whether to proceed given the potential risk of a further appeal against the decision.

It is anticipated that should a favourable decision be made for the Council by the end of January, then approximately £2 million of further investment delivering the scheme will be spent in the ensuing 6 week period (for example on utilities) without the process having been fully closed. We note that two planning permissions relating to Princes Parade are being sought by the Council at the Planning committee on the 25 Jan, 2022.

The Shepway Vox Team

Dissent is ESSENTIAL in a Democracy – Save Princes Parade

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