As a member of the public that attends meetings of Kimberley Town Council I was concerned by information that emerged at the meeting on 27th July 2011, relating to the proposed Knowle Park improvement project.
There has previously been some controversial publicity about aspects of this, so I set out to ascertain facts of the matter rather than rely on vague allegations.
I am rather concerned about what emerged, which is as follows.
The play equipment project is funded by an LIS grant from Nottinghamshire County Council. LIS grants only cover capital costs, and not ongoing costs and obligations.
To avoid unsustainable schemes, LIS grant applicants have to identify arrangements for ongoing costs first, and explain what they are in the application form.
There is no dispute that play equipment costs money to maintain, and that additional equipment involves additional costs.
The applicants thought that Broxtowe Borough Council owned the park, and stated so in the application form, and it was not until after it was received by Nottinghamshire County Council that it emerged that Knowle Park is actually owned by Kimberley Town Council.
One would imagine that Broxtowe Borough Council, if they had been approached, would have said ‘that is not our park at all’, and Kimberley Town Council certainly had not been approached because the applicants did not know that they owned it.
Without blaming anyone, it is hard not to infer that the LIS grant was applied for without the applicants having first arranged for the ongoing funding; that the information provided on the application form was in some way defective or deficient in that respect; and that those managing processing of the grant failed to address this fully when it was discovered.
The error was discovered in August 2010 after which there was dialogue with Kimberley Town Council to ascertain (a) whether the council would allow the scheme on their land, and (b) the position with ongoing maintenance.
It is documented that the Town Council stated that they had no money budgeted for additional maintenance at the site, but that, provided there were no additional maintenance costs, they would continue to maintain it as now.
If the applicants wish to apply to Kimberley Town Council for help with maintenance costs, then it is open for them to do so, just as they can apply elsewhere for help.
As far as I am aware, no such application has been made to Kimberley Town Council.
Presumably, any application would be a properly costed request and not a demand that the Town Council assumes an uncosted and open ended liability
As landowner, the Town Council’s approval is required for whatever goes on the land.
This aspect of the matter has progressed, and although there may be issues to resolve, they do not appear to be controversial.
But the indication of anticipated approval of aspects of the scheme by councillors (as landowner), with a view to concluding an acceptable installation, does not mean that they are agreeing to incur additional maintenance liabilities and it should not be inferred that it does.
This scheme has features which are potentially problematic. For example, the applicant is a Children’s Community Group where various people are acting ‘on their behalf’.
If, as appears to be the case, the group is an ‘unincorporated association’, then it is not an organisation that can own property or enter into agreements that attract liabilities, and people signing on its behalf may be running the risk of personal liability to perform the obligations.
That raises questions as to who is liable for complying with the LIS grant agreement obligation to maintain the equipment, and who would own it, especially as it stands on someone else’s land.
Schemes of this nature should be embarked upon from the beginning as a joint venture between the grant applicants and the site owners, and the manner in which this project has been conducted differently raises numerous questions.
This is a much needed scheme for the area.
It would be unfortunate were is to run into difficulties because of a failure to address these issues in a timely manner.