On April 16th 2019, Ashby Town Council issued a widely reported press statement which announced a "deal" to purchase the freehold of the Bath Grounds from Oakland Hotels. Here is the full statement.
"Ashby de la Zouch Town Council is pleased to announce today (16th April 2019) that the Town Council has made significant progress in its negotiations with Oakland Hotels Ltd and agreed in principle a deal for the purchase of the Bath Grounds, off Station Road, Ashby de la Zouch.
At its meeting in September 2018 the Town Council directed the Town Clerk to make an official approach to the owners of the Bath Grounds to enter into a dialogue whereby the Town Council expresses an interest in acquiring the freehold of the Bath Grounds in its entirety for the present and future residents of our town.
The Town Council is now delighted to be able to report that its negotiations with the owners of the Bath Grounds, Oakland Hotels Ltd, have been successful in securing an agreement in principle for the proposed purchase of the Bath Grounds in the sum of £620,000.00.
It should be stressed that the proposed purchase is dependent upon Oakland Hotels Ltd being granted planning permission by the Local Planning Authority for apartments on what is now the hotel car park and for senior living apartments in the area behind the Ashby Hastings Cricket Club pavilion, formerly designated as the ‘Hastings Gardens’.
When planning permission is granted then Oakland will transfer the freehold interest in the Bath Grounds to the Town Council. The exact terms of the purchase have yet to be agreed with the owners and the Town Council will insist upon a binding agreement that any sum paid by the Town Council to Oakland Hotels is used solely as a contribution towards the refurbishment of the Royal Hotel.
The Town Council has been consistent in its unanimous opposition to the proposed development of part of the Bath Grounds on an area to the east of the cricket outfield for five executive type houses as it felt it was inappropriate and out of context with the historic surroundings. The Bath Grounds is also a protected green space under the terms of the Ashby Neighbourhood Plan. As part of this deal the plan for the houses on the grounds will not form part of the new planning application.
The Bath Grounds have been used by the people of the town for recreation, entertainment and sport for many generations and this is a vital step in trying to secure its long-term future.
The freehold of the Bath Grounds was owned by Bass Taverns Ltd until 1999, when it was sold to Allied Sainif Plc and then to Oakland Hotels Ltd.
The Town Council leases the Bath Grounds from the owners Oakland Hotels Ltd. The current lease expires in 2023 but includes an option for the Town Council to extend the lease for a further 28 years, i.e. until 2051. It is important to note that there are three conditions to the option being validly exercised:-
- The rent must be paid;
- The tenant’s covenants must be performed and observed. There are 19 covenants within the lease which must be complied with; and
- The property must be zoned as a “playing field” on the Development Plan for Ashby de la Zouch at the date of the exercise of the option.
The option to extend the lease does not include any land on which planning permission has been granted for residential development, so the Town Council cannot seek to use its lease to permanently protect the Bath Grounds from development.
The relevant recent planning history comprises:
An application for planning permission in 2014 involving residential development of five dwellings [14/00107/FULM – Land and Bowls Pavilion off Prior Park Road and Cricket Pavilion off Station Road – Erection of five dwellings; demolition of existing bowls pavilion and cricket pavilion; erection of bowls pavilion, changing rooms and store with access improvements and creation of cricket pavilion (access off Station Road)]. The proposed residential development generated considerable local opposition and the application was withdrawn prior to determination.
The grant of planning permission in 2016 (following February 2014 applications) for an extension to the hotel and commercial development on the car park, including retail and leisure uses. [14/00104/FULM – Royal Hotel - Demolition of side and rear extensions at existing hotel, erection of side/rear extension to existing hotel and associated external works; erection of single storey kiosk building (A3 use), erection of two storey pavilion building (A3 and D2 use), formation of car park and alterations to existing access at Station Road involving removal of part of boundary wall to form visibility splays, associated removal of existing fencing and car park furniture and implementation of landscape works and 14/ 00105/LBC – Royal Hotel - Demolition of side and rear extensions of hotel, erection of side/rear extension to hotel, internal works, partial demolition and rebuilding of boundary wall to form visibility splays]. These applications have not been implemented.
An application for planning permission in 2017 for office and residential development of the car park area. [17/00761/FULM – Royal Hotel – Development of the northern car park of The Royal Hotel to provide B1 office accommodation and 28 residential apartments along with associated access, parking and amenity site]. This application was withdrawn prior to determination."