Following the press release by Swale Borough Council last week, we feel it is important to update our members and supporters on our position regarding the redevelopment of the Recreation Ground.
Following over twelve months of negotiations, we have agreed, in principle, the new Head of Terms to our lease of The Lodge. However, there are several issues that we have highlighted to SBC on numerous occasions that we feel are not being taken under due consideration. We now feel it is time to inform you, our members, our supporters, and our community of these issues.
For twenty-six years, the rugby club has paid for and maintained all running costs of The Lodge without any contribution or help from SBC. Without the rugby club, The Lodge would undoubtedly still be in the same state of disrepair it was in when the club assumed responsibility for it in 1992. Throughout our tenure at The Lodge, the club has consistently ensured there was a member residing on site to ensure the security of the building and reduce the threat of vandalism. It is worth noting that only a matter of days after the current steward vacated the premises, the club was broken into. The club has retained the lease of the lodge since 1992 on a peppercorn rent from the council however, this has been justified due to the service we have offered the council in maintaining the building ourselves, a service that we continue to offer. Since moving in to the lodge 26 years ago, the club has not once asked for a single penny from the council. Instead the club has not only survived, but thrived through the collegiate efforts of those who comprise our membership and supporters.
As such, we strongly feel that it is unreasonable for the council to impose a monthly rental charge to the rugby club that will threaten the club’s long term existence. Other than membership, the club’s only way of generating revenue is through bar sales. We were assured at the start of this process that our facilities would not be worsened. Instead we have been relegated to a situation whereby we have lost considerable and invaluable floor space of our beloved clubhouse, our storage facilities, and a significant portion of our outside area.
We were also originally informed that the works would take place during the off-season, thus minimising the disruption to the club. Unfortunately, due to a delay in the tender process, this has proved to be nothing but empty platitudes as the club has since been informed the work would finish in September, then November and most recently, December. In essence, this translates into us having to function for over half of our season without a clubhouse. This massively restricts our ability to cater for our visitors who, as following the rugby ethos, should be fed and catered for following their match. Fortunately, we have been very kindly offered ‘The Castle Pub’ as a base however, being located in Oare this will cause a number of logistical issues for visiting teams. This delay also means that the club will have no source of revenue (apart from membership) for at least the first half of the season. Despite raising this to SBC on several occasions, we have not been offered a mutually agreeable solution.
As the changing facilities are also not due for completion until December, the club has been forced to move their first home game to a neutral venue (Canterbury RFC) due to the council only recently confirming they will provide temporary basic changing facilities. The club is naturally concerned that with there only being two temporary changing facilities available how six sports teams will be able to use them and shower at the same time.
The benefit that we offer the community, should and does, massively outweigh the financial gain to the council which any rental agreement would attract in the future. We currently have over 55 members who benefit socially, mentally and physically from playing or being part of Faversham Rugby Club. Our first team currently play in Kent 1 and are the highest playing team in the borough of Swale. Furthermore, we have a second team playing league rugby alongside a fully functional ladies team and an upcoming junior section. We offer discounted membership rates to students and unemployed players to ensure that whoever you are, you are able and welcome to join the town’s only community rugby club.
We are incredulous that SBC insist on a fixed rental agreement being in place, despite the increasingly positive impact the club is having upon the wider community. The fixed rental agreement will threaten the club’s long term existence, and the club hopes that SBC can review and withdraw their rental proposal.