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Allerdale toilet decision set for court hearing

Braithwaite Community Archive Community Interest Company, the organisation established to acquire Braithwaite public toilets from Allerdale Borough Council and turn this into a Community Archive, has today revealed that it will ask the courts to overturn Allerdale’s decision to sell the building to a private individual as it believes that the divestment process was fundamentally flawed.

The Company served formal notice on Allerdale Borough Council and Above Derwent Parish Council on 18th August 2016 that unless both councils stop the sale and agree to an independent public enquiry into the whole divestment process, then the Company will seek injunctive relief and a judicial review.

Commenting on this development, David Best, Chairman of the Community Archive Company said: “We have had very serious concerns about the whole divestment process from beginning to end and despite our many requests for Allerdale and Above Derwent councils to look into these, it is our case that they have failed to do so, leaving us with no choice but to now ask the courts to intervene. For legal reasons, there is little more we are able to say at present, but rest assured we will inform the public and the media as soon as we can.”

The Company did however comment on recent press statements made by Allerdale Borough Council. Wendy Scott, Deputy Chair of the Company explained: “I must reiterate what David has just said. We believe that the whole divestment process is fundamentally flawed. In addition, we do feel that it is important that we correct some factually incorrect statements made by Allerdale in their assessment of our business plan. For example, Allerdale have claimed that we did not win the bid because we would only have the public toilet part of our development open for three mornings a week. THAT IS WRONG.

“Allerdale assume that this is what happens at the Dunkeld Archive on which our plans are based. Dunkeld Community Archive doesn’t even have a public toilet as the Local Council there replaced the old toilet block that is now the successful archive with a brand new toilet block in the town car park. The draft plans drawn up for us by an architect which form part of our submission show a separate entrance for a unisex toilet with access for the disabled, which would be available 24/7, much longer than they are currently open.

“Allerdale also claim that our plans contained no information from the Environment Agency nor from the Lake District planners about the flood risk at the site. AGAIN THIS IS WRONG. We were the people who actually informed Allerdale at the outset that the Environment Agency had issued strict new flood zones based on what actually happened in December 2015. Allerdale didn’t even know this when they put the toilets up for sale. We incorporated flood resilience measures in our plans. We also attended a planning surgery and received positive feedback, which was included in our submission.

“Allerdale also expressed concern that if our plan failed, liability for the toilets would revert to them. WELL THEY WERE WRONG ON THAT FRONT TOO; we informed them that we have a benefactor who has guaranteed that the toilets would be open for at least five years.

“Allerdale did however give us full marks for community support. This came from 204 individuals, ALL the community organisations, the local MPs, The Lake District National Park Authority, The National Trust, Friends of the Lake District and The Forestry Commission. The Chairman of the English Tourist Board supported our bid as did Sir Chris Bonington, Julia Bradbury and Paul Heiney.

“For Allerdale to reject our bid when THEY GOT THREE OF THE KEY FACTORS WRONG is unacceptable. What is more, from the outset Allerdale explained to us that they could transfer a community asset to the community for a nominal sum when there was strong community support for a plan, just as they have done with three toilet blocks in Keswick.

“But Allerdale also told us that a commercial bidder would have to pay the full market price for an asset which they had valued at £40,000. Allerdale have now informed us that they are to sell the community asset to a private individual, who is a council employee, for £10,000, a quarter of the market value. Clearly Allerdale have some serious questions to answer.”

A spokesman for Allerdale Borough Council said: “We know it is very disappointing for the organisation which was unsuccessful in its bid to develop the toilets in Braithwaite, but we are happy that every correct procedure has been followed in this process.

“The bids were assessed by a panel of five council officers who had not previously had any involvement in the initiative, therefore they made their decision solely on the quality of the business case the bidders submitted, including details of opening times, flood risk, future liability etc.

“The Community Archive group has now written to the Council to explain why it thinks the decision was incorrect. However, this letter does differ from the news release the group has given to the media. We will now examine both these documents and we reiterate our offer to the Community Archive group for a face-to-face meeting with the evaluation panel to discuss their decision.

“We hope that this matter is swiftly resolved and that both the parties can work together to make a great new facility for the residents of Braithwaite, and those who will visit the village in the future.”

Rachael Kelly, Clerk to Above Derwent Parish Council said: “Above Derwent Parish Council has been made aware of proposed legal action by BCACIC to challenge the lawfulness of the decision made by Allerdale Borough Council in August 2016 to sell the public toilets at Braithwaite.

“Above Derwent Parish Council have no influence or powers over the decision making process of Allerdale Borough Council.”

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