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Agenda item

Extension to Term of New Lease - Request from Inchgarth, Loirston and Old Torry Community Centre Management Associations - RES/22/124

Originally identified as an exempt report at 13.1 on the agenda, however the Committee agreed to consider the report in public.


(A)      The Committee received a deputation from Mr Paul O’Connnor of Inchgarth Community Centre.


Mr O’Connor expressed his disappointment at not having seen the report until it was made public and stated that he would categorically reject every change, clause and burden placed on Inchgarth Community Centre and other centres. In particular, he referred to utility bills and the proposal that community centres should have to pay, which he found offensive to the volunteers who ran community centres, and if those costs were passed onto community centres they would be forced to close.  


Mr O’Connor explained he was seeking support for a 25-year lease for Inchgarth Community Centre and called on the committee to back their vision to expand. He emphasised the excellent services his community centre provided and was of the view that the Council could not provide such services physically or financially. He added that Inchgarth Community Centre delivered 170 classes a week which was ‘water into wine’ in terms of value for money for the Council.


Mr O’Connor asked the committee whether they valued what community centres offered to the city or whether they viewed them as a burden. He acknowledged that there were challenges, however there needed to be a change in approach and called on members to reject the report’s recommendations with regard to proposed changes to the terms and conditions. He implored the committee to match the ambitions of community centres and underlined that if they approved the recommendations, it would kill the enthusiasm of volunteers and centres would shut.


Mr O’Connor emphasised that community centres needed to be offered identical terms and conditions for longer term leases. He reiterated that community centres could not afford to pay for utility bills or rates. He added that the proposal that if a community centre was extended that ownership would be split between the Council and the community centre was completely unworkable. Mr O’Connor concluded that the Council needed to work with community centres and give them the opportunity to grow.


The Committee asked questions of Mr O’Connor and thanked him for his deputation. 


(B)      The Committee received a deputation from Mr David Fryer of Old Torry Community Centre.


Mr Fryer emphasised that the matter was about investing in communities by providing community centres with the opportunity of securing longer term leases. He explained that Old Torry Community Centre was in the middle of its recovery strategy following the Covid-19 pandemic and the focus now needed to be on new development.


Mr Fryer advised that the Old Torry Community Centre building was 87 years old and although it was in good condition, it still needed some attention and with single wall construction and single glazing, in order to make the building habitable during the winter, the heating needed to be on all day every day which was obviously not sustainable.


Mr Fryer explained that they had requested a 30-year lease as many external organisations and funding bodies stipulated that community centres must have a minimum 20-year lease as a condition of funding, therefore a 30-year lease would be an enabler to secure funding and investment.


Mr Fryer underlined that they were willing to work with the Council, however there needed to be a slightly different outcome to what was being recommended in the report, and he called on the hand of friendship to enable community centres to continue to do what they do. He emphasised that the Council got a great deal from community centres and that volunteers made things work, however if the Council kept putting burdens on volunteers it would not work and they would not be able to help. He concluded by calling upon the Council to invest in the future and invest in communities.


The Convener thanked Mr Fryer for his deputation.


(C)      The Committee had before it a report by the Chief Officer - Corporate Landlord which requested that the previously agreed 10 year term for the leased community centres be extended for the Inchgarth, Loirston Annexe and Old Torry Community Centres.


The report recommended:-

that the Committee -

(a)           approve the request from the Inchgarth Community Centre Management Association for a 25-year lease for the Inchgarth Community Centre;

(b)           approve the request from the Loirston Annexe Community Centre Management Association for a 25-year lease for the Loirston Annexe Community Centre;

(c)           approve the request from the Old Torry Community Centre Management Association for a 30-year lease for the Torry Community Centre; and

(d)           instruct the Chief Officer - Corporate Landlord to progress the lease with each of the above noted management associations for the requested term incorporating appropriate terms and conditions as shown in the Heads of Terms (Appendix 1) to protect the interests of the Council.


The Committee resolved:-

(i)             to approve recommendations (a), (b) and (c);

(ii)           to instruct the Chief Officer - Corporate Landlord to progress the lease with each of the above noted management committees on the same terms as all other community centre leases, other than the lease length noted above;

(iii)          to agree that, subject to the Council granting Landlord’s Consent, the operating costs of any additional building on site or extensions will be dealt with in the same way as those of the original building; and

(iv)          to thank the deputations for their attendance and contributions.

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