Corwen Town Council issue statement on future of War Memorial Park

Corwen FC have had to leave the War Memorial Park and play at Maes Tegid, Bala, for the rest of the season. Picture: Gavin Billington

Corwen Town Council have issued a statement on the future of the War Memorial Park.

Corwen Football Club have had to stop using the park – where it has played for more than 40 years – as its home ground as the council will not permit them to use the pavilion facilties.

Corwen FC need access to such facilities to qualify for a licence in the league where they compete.

As a result, Corwen must play the rest of their home matches this season at Maes Tegid. Bala – more than 11 miles away.

Following a public outcry from supporters of the football club, the town council have issued a statement which Grassroots North Wales publishes below in full.

CORWEN WAR MEMORIAL PARK – TOWN COUNCIL STATEMENT….

There has been quite a lot of speculation recently regarding Corwen’s War Memorial Park so the Town Council are issuing this statement to clarify what has been taking place and why certain decisions have had to be taken.

History of the War Memorial Park

Corwen War Memorial Park was established by way of a charitable endowment in 1931 and was conveyed to Corwen Parish Council to hold in trust in perpetuity as a war memorial. Since its creation, the park has been managed directly by the Parish / Community Council and also via a management committee, the Corwen War Memorial Park Recreation Committee. This committee experienced financial difficulties in 2018/19 and a new organisation, the Corwen War Memorial Park Recreation Committee Charity was created in 2020 – mainly to limit the financial liability of members of the management committee. When the new organisation was established, it was thought that the affairs of the original War Memorial Park Recreation Committee could be simply transferred to the new Charity and that this would take over where the old Committee left off.
Sadly, this has not turned out to be possible for a number of reasons – largely outside the Council’s control.
Recent History
The financial position for the War Memorial Park Recreation Committee was not improved by the COVID-19 pandemic and the Town Council had to step in to ensure that the park continued to be available for public use. As part of this process the Council had to review arrangements for managing the park and it found that there were several areas of concern. The accounts for the Recreation Committee had not been prepared for two years, various safety inspections had not been undertaken and the Pavilion was in need of essential work to make it safe for use when it was re-opened. These works included essential work to the water system which had, for the first time, been assessed in relation to the risk of legionella. There were multiple recommendations from this and other inspections and the Council has been working through these and arranging for action to be taken to address them. This is ongoing but is taking time. Please bear with us.

Legal Issues

As part of dealing with the above, the Council wanted to ensure that the legal status of the War Memorial Park was clear. This had been discussed by the War Memorial Park Recreation Committee and the Council in the past but still remained uncertain.
The War Memorial Park itself is registered as a charity and until recently the War Memorial Park Recreation Committee had been preparing its own accounts and submitting these to the Charity Commission as if it were the charity. There was also a 99 year lease between the Council and the War Memorial Park Recreation Committee dating from 1995 and it was believed that this was the key document setting out the responsibilities of the Council and the Committee.
Unfortunately, as the Council learned after taking legal advice, the above position was not correct and this had implications for the future management of the War Memorial Park.

Although the Charity Commission had clarified the legal status of the park back in 2004 and had advised that the 99 year lease was void and could have no legal effect, these matters appear to have been overlooked or ignored. The Council employed specialist legal advisers to review the current position and they have confirmed that the Council is (and always has been) the sole Charity Trustee for the park and is legally responsible for it.
As you can imagine this has come as a surprise to the Council and to those Councillors who were nominated to sit as Trustees on the new War Memorial Park Recreation Committee Charity as there is no need for a new Charity to limit the financial liability of Trustees – the Council is the park’s sole Charity Trustee.

The Future

In addition to ensuring that the park and Pavilion are safe to use and sorting out the legal position, the Council also commissioned an independent review of costs of managing the park in the future. It was obvious from the physical condition of the Pavilion that very little maintenance had been undertaken since the building was constructed in 1996. Additionally the shortage of funding and over-reliance on volunteers has had an impact on the quality and extent of work and inspections to ensure that the park is safe to use. This is not a criticism of the dedicated and well-meaning volunteers that gave lots of their time to manage the park in the past – just an honest explanation for why the Council now has to arrange for some of these matters to be addressed.
The review concluded that more money was required to run the park and ensure that the Pavilion was safe to use in the long term, not just before it is open again for public use. Some of the past arrangements for managing the park need to be formalised – including contracts for cleaning, grass cutting and grounds maintenance, and importantly caretaking / supervising the park and the Pavilion when in use. There is also a need to formalise historic arrangements for sports clubs who use the park – to reflect the position that they are users of a public facility along with other individuals and organisations. Again these matters are in hand but are taking time to resolve so please be patient.
The Council is now the default manager of the park so it is making practical decisions on operational matters each day. It does however have a big decision to take in the future – whether to continue managing the park itself or whether it should contract with another organisation to manage the park on its behalf. Whatever option is chosen, there will still be a need for additional money to be invested in the park – to ensure it is managed professionally and to address the lack of repairs and maintenance it and the Pavilion in particular, has suffered over the past 25 years. It is therefore likely that there will be an increase in the Town Council Precept – the share of Council Tax that is locally determined.
At its meeting on 8th September the Council decided to consult with local residents regarding their ideas for the park and their views on the options for its future management. This will provide an opportunity for the Council to explain more about what has happened, what is happening now and why various decisions have had to be taken. It will also be a great opportunity for local people to tell the Council what they would like to see taking place at the Park so that the Council can look into sources of funding etc.

Communications from the Council

The Council appreciates that some members of sports clubs who use the park may not have been party to all of the above information and may not have fully appreciated why the Council is doing what it is. This is likely to be the case for other members of the public who are less frequent users of the park but still want to ensure that it is protected as valued local facility.
We are sorry that we could not disclose more about what has been happening until now but in the coming weeks there is going to be an opportunity for all residents to contribute to the long term success of the War Memorial Park. When the consultation takes place, be sure to make your views known so that the Council can take a final decision on the long term future of the park later in the year.
If we can provide answers to specific questions before the consultation exercise we will do so on the Town Council Website (www.corwentowncouncil.co.uk) and Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/Corwen-Town-Council-105084731145177/) pages.
Additionally, if you would like to e-mail us with queries we will also reply if we can. Our e-mail address is clerk@corwentowncouncil.co.uk
Where the information requested or provided is not confidential we will keep a log of ongoing Questions and Answers and publish this on the website so you can see what other people have asked and what response we have given. As a first step we will look at the recent postings on Facebook and provide answers to some of the questions raised by local sports clubs.

Corwen Town Council
17 September 2021

PETITION

A petition set up by former Corwen FC manager Nicky Jones to reverse the decision to make the club move homes has gathered almost 700 signatures. The aim is to reach 1,000, which could help ensure it is discussed in the Senedd.

To sign the petition, visit:

http://www.change.org/p/corwen-town-council-to-bring-corwen-football-club-back-to-corwen-memorial-park

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