Friday, December 03, 2010

Swanage Bay View and the Town Council -

Swanage Bay View and the Town Council -
Business Not Completed.

Swanage Bay View Holiday Park and Swanage Town Council have not concluded their business over the former's disposal, and this may cost Swanage a lot of money when it is finished.

Darwin plc, the investment company behind SBV, are in dispute with a majority of caravan owners over site fee increases which, the owners maintain, is not in accordance with the terms of their license. (Darwin has just published a further large increase for 2011, and admits both years' figures are 'in dispute').

How does this affect Swanage? Why care about the 'muni'? Isn't that business done and dusted, you may ask?

The owners and Swanage Town Council made an agreement about two years ago that the fees would be adjusted according to a set of factors which are too lengthy to list here. That agreement was overseen by the Office of Fair Trading and the District Auditor. Darwin maintains that this agreement is not relevant to them; that they do not have to honour any such agreement made by the previous owner (STC). This will go before an independent arbitrator soon.

This may affect Swanage because among many other such provisions, Darwin has included in the purchase contract a covenant holding STC liable for any losses it incurs due to any conditions or detrimental actions done by the vendor, Swanage Town Council.

If arbitration decides the caravan owners are correct, then Darwin will have to forego the fee increases, which will cause it to lose a large sum of money. If arbitration favours Darwin, it can still claim a large sum of compensation for nearly two years of running the business with its income stream 'in dispute', leaving it unable to invest in improving the business until such time as it knows what its income will be. In either case, STC may have to refund substantial portions of the sale proceeds, as well as legal costs, etc.

This is all due to the acceptance of the previous Town Clerk and STC to make an agreement with the caravan owners; I believe this was done to facilitate disputes that were holding up the disposition of the park to Darwin. Whether it was poor judgment, or a case of being caught between a rock and a hard place, STC made a mistake that has yet to be resolved.

Your money is being used to pay for this error by STC. You have not been told because this matter, and many others, are excluded from public scrutiny at council meetings and other means, such as full and complete minutes of portions of meetings held 'in camera'. There is also the ongoing sub judice discussions about the land south of the park, which Swanage rate payers are not told about. Perhaps it is time for STC to tell the people of Swanage what is going on - and stop hiding behind rules to exclude members of the public from certain aspect of business!!

Perhaps the Gazette would like to ask a few questions about this, in the interests of the rate payers of Swanage? If this information is materially incorrect, perhaps the Town Council would care to correct it?

Posted by Anonymous to swanageview at 9:45 AM


ethel said...

As Darwin have not produced any evidence of the alleged dispute,or had meeting with owners to discus, there is nothing to arbitrate, therefore Arbitration is a no go.

The Postman said...

All I can add is that, as far as I am aware, the Town Council has throughout the process followed proper protocol (and sought professional advice) to ensure that it incurs minimum costs and doesn’t become liable for further legal costs.

Anonymous said...

Glad to hear arbitration is off the table, Ethel. Does this mean that all the talks going on are between Darwin and STC, and that owners are protected?

From what I have heard from owners, either Darwin did not do its due diligence; or STC withheld information; or Darwin thinks they can 'break' the owners. Which of the three do you think are relevant - I plump for #3. While Darwin waits to break the owners' resolve, it can claw back lost income from STC. Win-win for Darwin; loss-loss for STC.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if this will affect the other uses of the complex like the arts club, bowls and rifle range?

Ethel said...

Hello 12.41. Darwin are not worried. They will get their money anyway whatever happens... from STC.I should think omissions were made, Darwin are ignoring the Association hoping they will go away.

All the points you have made are pertinent to this. Swanage people should be asking question of STC

Postman, what professional advice did STC seek in this?

Anonymous said...

Loads of vans up there with burst pipes from this freeze up.

Owners might get a big bill fer repairs.

If owners requested a draindown before the big freeze, and had pipe damage because it wasn't done in time, they should make the park pay for it.

No doubt the park will decline the claim, saying it was an act of God....

Such a happy place.........

Anonymous said...

'I wonder if this will affect the other uses of the complex like the arts club, bowls and rifle range?'

These groups have existing long-term leases that were established when Swanage Town Council owned the property (one group, I believe, did not). I would expect that Darwin is required to observe these leases, as it is clear the use of these premises by these groups continues after the sale of SBV to Darwin.

swanage resident said...

re 8:36 AM
The rifle range did not have their lease renewed while the council still owned the complex due to alan leeson not doing his job and never returning calls, emails or letters. The council had recommended that the lease was renewed in the minutes of one of their meetings. Darwin are just as bad and wont return calls or emails regarding the lease. Perhaps they have enough money and dont want to collect rents?

Anonymous said... They just haven't got around to dealing with the trifling sum of money they get from the shooting club. They will axe it as soon as they come up with a more profitable use for the space. I have been told they aim to throw out the other leaseholders as soon as they can - they bring in little money, whereas rooms full of arcade games and theme bars will.

Watch Darwin close the whole complex for 'refurbishments' and see no operatic club or bowls club left. The lessees wull go to court, and Darwin will buy out their leases for the market rate under a court order. If they put up a ruckus, Darwin will let the building fall to rack and ruin (mold is a good one), forcing them out. I give it three years at best. Darwin wants money for its investors - no more.

Anonymous said...

Such a happy place.............

Anonymous said...

re 5:53 PM
Do you have an inside contact in Darwin or is this just rumor ?

Anonymous said...

re 10.44

The lease holders (The music group and the bowls club) should be safe, insofar as their lease makes them so, but those leaseholders should be made aware that Darwin has not been honest with those holding licenses issues by STC. Darwin (there is no named individual - all correspondence to license holders is signed 'Darwin' and not any person, which in itself is strange as 'Darwin' refers to several separate companies) has a knack for dissembling the truth.

You may have noticed that Darwin has spent little or no money improving or maintaining facilities; there is no gym or sauna; the Quarryman seems to be in a state of limbo; even the video arcade machines are 'out of order' much of the time. The main entrance have been locked shut for several months as it is broken, apparently; the manager states it won't be repaired as it is too expensive. The MAIN entrance!

The building survey of the Vista conducted several years ago indicated some very real problems with the structure, which has a limited life, and having read the report I would think a major rebuild would have to happen within the lifetimes of the two leases in question. I would be very suspicious about those leases. Darwin has clearly demonstrated that when a facility needs repair, it is simply closed. Be wary; ask; get it in writing.

Anonymous said...

Also, if the shooting club has not been granted a new license, it should consider itself there at the pleasure of Darwin.

Anonymous said...

I addition, there is still no customer wifi in the Vista, even though it is boasted as a feature in the Darwin brochure.

Anonymous said...

Such a happy place......

ethel said...

Not a happy place at all! Does anyone here in Swanage have any view of the debate in Parliament, just before Christmas, on Holiday parks? Swanage Bay View Holiday Park was mentioned twice by 2 different MPs, and not in a positive way. MPs were talking about abuse of caravan owners with excessive fee increases, dubious sales techniques. So, not only are owners already on the park unhappy but also new owners who find out later that they are paying more for their pitch than others. Amazing!
This will surely damage the reputation of Swanage Town and may deter tourists. I wonder what the Town Council is doing and thinking about all this. I bet they wish they never got rid of a very profitable business and sold to Darwin, the new owners hiking up the fees and causing this problem.
A very unhappy place indeed.

The Postman said...

The Postman wrote this has all been detailed in the council minutes. I cannot open most of the recent pages from the link below, has anyone else got the same problem ?

One page I can open shows the public were excluded from five discussions at a meeting regarding the quarry site, occupation of grazing land, caravan sales commission, amusement park lease and the council depot site.

It is difficult to search through the minutes but I have found £1.5 million invested at 1.8%, £3 million at 2.5%, £4 million "had been" invested on the money markets at 0.6-0.8%. From STC accounts the cost of the caravan park sale was £137,774. £50,000 legal expenses can be claimed from STC by Darwin. As mentioned a maximum of £1.8 million indemnities. Darwin pay an annual rent of £30,000 not linked to inflation.

I cannot see how this can return "just shy of 400000 pounds" mentioned earlier. Put simply, every £1 million invested at 2.5% gives £25,000 annual return.

I would have thought the best option would have been for STC to set up an arms length company to manage SBVHP. As there is no secrecy involved can someone please properly explain why this was not done.

Posts for me!

(Posted by Postman for above anon)