The borough council owns 107 beach chalets, Pebbles Café, public conveniences and a range of adjacent recreational facilities at Greenhill. The chalets comprise:
These chalets plus other Greenhill facilities are annotated on the site plan below (Appendix 1).
The council has let the chalets on annual licences to predominantly local residents for many years. The council currently leases out the Pebbles Café and maintains the other facilities at Greenhill.
The Council wishes to consult upon its recent proposal to lease out the chalets, Pebbles Café, public conveniences and adjacent facilities.
The proposal has been prompted by the fact that the Esplanade chalets have substantial repair liabilities that cannot be readily financed by the council from current licence fee revenues. The council believes that grouping adjacent facilities with the chalets will reduce future maintenance and management costs but will consider marketing as a whole or with the Greenhill Play Gardens offered as a separate lot. The council would require future leaseholders to covenant to complete the restoration of the chalets and provide improved facilities within three years of the grant of the lease.
The proposals were made in a report to Management Committee on 5 November 2013 and were agreed in principle by the Management Committee on 7 January 2014 subject to a public consultation process being undertaken and advertising of the council’s intention to dispose of areas of open space implicit in the proposals (to comply with statutory requirements). The January report contains the recommendations which form the basis of this consultation. The January report is on the council’s website here.
Greenhill Gardens and the Sluice Gardens (now called the Greenhill Play Gardens) were transferred to the council by Sir Frederic John William Johnstone by means of a Deed of Gift in 1902. The council then purchased the tennis courts, bowling club and Esplanade chalets site from Sir Frederic John William Johnstone in 1904. The two tier Esplanade chalets were developed from 1923 with the upper deck chalets and Pebbles Café added later. The single tier chalets and the Bowling Club were later additions too as were the public conveniences and grounds staff accommodation. The recreational facilities were changed over the years to the current putting green, tennis courts and children’s play facilities.
The potential transfers would contain various covenants restricting future usage and development of various parts of the two parcels of land. A transcript of the covenants and plans are in Appendix 2 below. The covenants have been partially released over the years in relation to the various developments that have taken place. The covenants do not require the council to either retain ownership or to manage the facilities. The covenants prohibit change of use and some forms of development in relation to parts of the land (e.g. the retention of part of the land as ornamental garden) and require that public access is maintained to the recreational facilities.
If the council leases out the chalets and adjacent facilities, the leaseholder will be required to comply with the various covenants unless they obtain release from the Wilton Estate.
If the recommendation to lease out the chalets and adjacent facilities is agreed, the council will advertise its intention to dispose of the land by placing advertisements in the Dorset Echo in accordance with s.123 (2A) of the Local Government Act 1972 and by following this procedure the council is free to dispose of the land.
The chalets are a popular facility being fully occupied except for 12 which were recently closed because of their deteriorating condition. Many licensees have held chalet licences for over a decade and there are waiting lists for all of the chalet blocks. In recognition of this fact the council has obtained planning consent for additional chalets in the Greenhill Gardens and may consider additional chalet provision in due course.
The leisure facilities comprising the tennis courts, putting green, sandpit and paddling pool are largely used in the summer. While most are unique in Weymouth there is alternative tennis provision at Radipole Park Drive and covered facilities at Wey Valley School.
The two storey Esplanade chalets were registered as a Listed Building in 2008. The council commissioned a series of structural engineer’s reports in the last decade when surface corrosion of the reinforced steel frame of the Esplanade chalets was identified. In 2009 the upper tier chalets were closed because of their poor condition. The chalets were inspected in 2013 and the outcome of these inspections is briefly reported in Appendix 3 below for information. The council has liaised with English Heritage previously and the principle of the proposed repair solution has been agreed although no Listed Building Consent application has yet been made.
The capital cost of repairs will be difficult to service from the current licence fees collected for these chalets. The revenues from the chalets and the council’s management and maintenance costs over the last five years are reported in Appendix 4 below.
An opportunity for private and not for profit organisations to investigate external grant funding is outlined in Appendix 5 below.
3) Current proposal (if the leasing of the chalets and adjacent facilities is agreed)
The council recognises that the chalets and facilities require significant capital investment and believes that by granting a long lease of the chalets and facilities it will give a new operator an opportunity to plan and undertake long-term investment. The council will require the identified repairs to be addressed within three years of the grant of the lease. The council considers that there is potential for the chalets to generate increased revenues and an opportunity for a leaseholder to manage them effectively and improve net receipts.
The council would seek a long term arrangement and recognises that it may receive proposals for limited development, facilities revision or even closure to achieve required capital and revenue. In considering any such proposals the council will have to take into account representations received from this consultation process.
The council believes that the opportunity should also be taken to pass on the management and maintenance of the facilities adjacent to the chalets, including the operation of the public conveniences, management of the tennis courts and putting green (that have been managed by a licensed operator for a number of years) and the maintenance and management of the children’s paddling pool and sandpit at the Greenhill Play Gardens.
The council has not produced a planning and design brief for the chalets and considers that a tender requiring delivery of specific proposals maybe too prescriptive. It is proposed instead that obligations would be imposed on the leaseholder to maintain the provision of the chalets and adjacent recreational facilities. This will not preclude a purchaser making proposals for development and improvement of the property as part of their tender or subsequently, once the lease is completed by mutual agreement.
The putting green would be included initially in any lease but the lease would contain a landlord break clause allowing the putting green to be taken back into council control (if required) on giving written notice. This would give the council the opportunity to take it back into council control if it is poorly managed or the leaseholder proposes changes that the council considers would be detrimental to the retained gardens.
The council would be willing to consider an approach from a community group interested in taking on the maintenance and management of the chalets and adjacent facilities. Any such organisation would have to be properly constituted and be able to provide a sustainable business plan showing how it would address future maintenance liabilities and make improved provision for the adjacent facilities. It would have to demonstrate where it would obtain requisite capital funding and interested parties are directed to grant availability through the Heritage Lottery Fund as briefly described in Appendix 5 below. The proposal to tender a lease opportunity does not therefore preclude an approach from such a group and the council would encourage an early approach to be able to inform councillors following this consultation that such interest has been received.
4) Potential Lease Terms
Officers are recommending that any future lease would contain covenants to impose some control on the future use and facilities provision at Greenhill having regard to the council’s adjacent retained land interests. Specifically but not exclusively the council will require the leaseholders to
a) Only use the land for the current uses (at risk of forfeiture), subject to any Landlord's consent for change of use. Development of new chalets in the Cactus Terrace area to be permitted.
b) Restore the two storey Greenhill Promenade Chalets bringing upper floor chalets back into use within three years of the lease commencement date
c) Maintain the premises in good repair and condition.
d) Facilitate repairs to the chalets and adjacent facilities outside of the period 1 May to 30September inclusive annually or otherwise only by agreement with the landlord.
e) Retain all existing public access to the premises including the viewing terrace.
f) Not use the property as overnight accommodation or residential use.
g) Make continued provision for public conveniences.
h) Maintain the provision of public recreational facilities at the Greenhill Gardens.
i) Accept existing rights (and make continued provision) for the land train to turn at Greenhill Play Gardens.
j) Comply with the covenants imposed under the 1902 and 1904 Indentures subject to any release obtained from the Wilton Estate which holds the benefit of the covenants.
At present most of the chalets are licensed to local residents. However no restrictions are to be imposed on the future lease or licensing of the chalets. If the decision to lease is made, the chalets and café would be marketed with vacant possession. The long lease completion would therefore follow the termination of the current chalet licences on 31 October 2014.
5) Consultation process
This consultation has now closed. The results are below. A report will be taken to the council's Management Committee on 1 July 2014.
Greenhill consultation results report (.pdf) (353 KB)
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