Council admits Rifle Hall neglect

WAVENEY District Council this week admitted for the first time that it had failed to honour its responsibilities as the charity trustees of Halesworth's Rifle Hall.

WAVENEY District Council this week admitted for the first time that it had failed to honour its responsibilities as the charity trustees of Halesworth's Rifle Hall.

It said it had, over many years, failed to properly look after the building, the town's main function hall in London Road, as laid down in trust deeds. Now, with the site in a poor condition, the council has been forced to take urgent action.

Councillors voted to seek permission to sell Halesworth's Rifle Hall because it is dilapidated and too expensive to maintain. Should they be refused permission by the Charity Commission, they agreed to try to transfer the site to a new trustee.

Waveney's assistant chief executive Arthur Charvonia said: “As it stands, the council is not complying with the terms of the trust and needs to take action. This problem has existed for some time.”

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Councillor Andrew Shepherd added: “We seem to have neglected our position over the last 30 to 40 years and, as a result, it seems to be in a very poor state.

The Arnold Bequest Land, off Whapload Road at Lowestoft, left by a man in memory of his son who was killed in the first world war, is another site the district council has admitted neglecting over the years.

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The trust says the land should be maintained as a recreation area for the public, but it has emerged the council failed to stop sections being used for unauthorised purposes.

Areas of the land are now being used for

back gardens and a bin storage area for

the neighbouring Homeport housing development, a recent meeting of councillors heard.

Another section is being used as an outside seating area for a café, while concerns have also been raised about a car park built on the bequest land.

The details were revealed at an often heated meeting of the district council's charities board at Lowestoft Town Hall.

Councillor Ian Graham said: “We have failed the people of Lowestoft. I move that we take the land back into our ownership.”

However, Mr Graham's motion was defeated and councillors agreed to initially negotiate with the Suffolk Housing Association, which runs Homeport, and the owners of the café, in a bid to get them to pay rental fees. If this fails, Waveney would seek to return the land to trust use.

Councillor Paul Light said: “There are some good arguments and a lot of emotion, but this is a problem that goes back 34 years. As a group, we are trying to make good the failings of previous councils and councillors.”

Businessman Mervyn Lambert has long complained about Waveney's administration of the land and has written many letters demanding action.

He said: “Why has it taken two-and-a-half years since I first alerted the council for anything to be done.”

After the meeting, council leader Mark Bee said: “At last, we are putting things on a proper footing - and about time.”

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