Decision details

Caversham Court Stables

Decision status: For Determination

Is Key decision?: No

Is subject to call in?: No

Decisions:

The Executive Director of Economic Growth and Neighbourhood Services submitted a report seeking approval for the disposal of Caversham Court Stables (the Property) on a 10-year lease.  The Property was shown on a plan attached to the report at Appendix A.  Confidential information relating to the disposal was also set out in Appendices B-F which had been submitted to the Committee in closed session (Minute 98 below refers).

 

The report explained that the Property, a Grade II listed building, was currently vacant and had been declared surplus.  In 2015/16 it had been marketed for short-term commercial leases, but the preferred letting had not progressed due to parking issues raised during the planning application process.  In February 2018, the Property had been re-marketed but issues had been raised with the presence of the gardener’s office within the building complex.  The gardening service was a requirement of the capital and revenue lottery grant for the upgrade of Caversham Court Gardens and a range of options had been considered, with the only viable option being to relocate to a new purpose-built office within the adjacent allotment.  A detailed design feasibility had been carried out including costings, but issues raised during the Listed Building application process meant the proposed site building had not been suitable.  As a condition of any lease the gardener’s office would remain in situ either using the current separate welfare facilities or with a reconfigured layout at an estimated one-off cost to the Council of circa £10,000.

 

The report explained that the Property had been remarketed in 2021 on the open market and in accordance with the Third Sector Policy, and that a total of nine offers had been received: three from the third sector and six from private individuals/developers.  The offers included retaining the Property for office use as well as a change of use to educational and residential uses.  All offers had been on the basis of a leasehold disposal with the Council retaining the freehold and a landlord role to enable better control on enforcing future uses and obligations in the context of the listed gardens.  Further information on the bids was provided in the Confidential Summary Information Appendix B and Confidential Bid Application Summary Table Appendix C considered in closed session.

 

The report explained that the top Third Sector offer had been made by Rabble Theatre Group and was an unconditional offer, subject to survey, to lease the Property for 10 years with an option to purchase on a 999-year leasehold.  They had submitted a detailed Business Plan and Third Sector Bid and had undertaken a range of building, financial and professional due diligence as part of the submission.  The offer did not require the reconfiguration of the gardener’s office.  The full bid was set out at Appendix D (submitted in closed session) and was supported by Cultural Services, whose comments were set out in Appendix E (considered in closed session), and by the Council’s Conservation and Urban Design Officer in the context of the proposed use of the listed building.

 

The report stated that the highest commercial offer was a leasehold, unconditional, owner-occupier’s offer subject to surveys. The proposal was to keep the building as offices and potentially subdivide them into separate units.  This was an unconditional offer and represented Best Consideration in accordance with section 123 of the Local Government Act 1972.

 

The report explained, although the offer from Rabble did not represent Best Consideration under the requirements of S.123 of the Local Government Act 1972 the Council could dispose of the Property to Rabble under the General Disposal Consent (England) 2003 (General Consents) if it considered that in doing so, the disposal would help secure the promotion or improvement of the economic, social or environmental wellbeing of its area. In this instance, Rabble’s proposals would meet these criteria and it was therefore proposed to grant Rabble Theatre Group a lease of the Property for a period of 10 years with an option to purchase after 10 years on a 999-year basis.  The detailed terms were set out in the Confidential Summary information Appendix B considered in closed session.  Rabble would work with the Council and partners, including grant organisations to deliver the key outputs of their business plan, summarised in Appendices D and E, and to support the Council’s ‘Made in Reading’ identity, create opportunities through collaboration and support key elements of the Council’s Corporate Plan.

 

Resolved –

 

(1)      That, taking into account the information provided in closed session, it be agreed to grant Rabble Theatre Group a 10-year lease at the Caversham Court Stables together with an option to purchase a 999-year leasehold interest;

 

(2)      That, in the event that the bid proposal or offer price was subsequently reduced or altered or the purchaser did not perform to an acceptable timescale, the Executive Director for Economic Growth & Neighbourhood Services, in consultation with the Director of Finance, Leader of the Council, the Lead Councillor for Corporate and Consumer Services and the Assistant Director of Legal and Democratic Services, be authorised to:

 

                     a) agree a revised bid proposal or offer price;

 

                     b) re-engage with other bidders as appropriate or remarket the Property for disposal at best consideration.

 

 

Publication date: 16/06/2022

Date of decision: 04/04/2022

Decided at meeting: 04/04/2022 - Policy Committee

Accompanying Documents: