Cabinet confirms commitment to Hatfield community facility
Cabinet has confirmed its commitment to retaining a community facility in the area of Friendship House, as it considered the recommendation of the ¹Overview and Scrutiny Committee at a meeting this evening (9 March 2021).
The council currently leases Friendship House to the trustees of Hatfield and District Age Concern at a rent of £130 per annum. The property is in excess of 50 years old and despite the best efforts of the charity, without major investment, it is nearing the end of its life.
The Overview and Scrutiny Committee asked if Cabinet would consider assignment of the lease to a particular charity, however, in the interests of transparency and fairness, Cabinet has agreed not to do this.
Cllr Duncan Bell, Deputy Leader of the Council and Executive Member, Resources, said:
This could be unfair to other organisations and voluntary groups on two counts. Firstly, they would not have had the opportunity to express an interest and secondly, under the terms of the lease which runs until 2098, any new tenant would need to have sufficient funding to meet the obligations of structural repairs and maintenance including a complete rebuild when the property reaches the end of its useful life.
We know how important and valued Friendship House is, which is why retaining a community facility, will be built in to any option considered for the site. We hope this confirmation will give residents peace of mind knowing that our overriding objective is to ensure we provide a sustainable solution that best serves and supports the local community.
The council shares the concerns about the impact of Hatfield and District Age Concern leaving Friendship House and is very happy to help refer users to the lunch and social club at The Hive. Whilst this is operated by the charity Jimmy Macs, independent from the council, both work closely together and are positive that, given the closure, the team would do everything possible to provide the warmest welcome to new visitors once coronavirus restrictions are lifted and they open again.
A full report on the various options for the centre will be presented to Cabinet in Summer 2021.
¹Overview and Scrutiny Committees monitor the work of the council and its partners. They play an important role in holding Cabinet to account and play a fundamental role in the successful functioning of local democracy.