Merging talks for Halesworth project stall


- Credit: Nick Butcher

Plans to bring multi-million pound health and fitness facilities to Halesworth have been rocked by one of the groups behind the scheme passing a vote of no confidence in another.

Halesworth Playing Fields Association (HPFA) and Halesworth Campus Ltd (HCL) are due to merge their assets and become one new charity to run a multi-sports complex planned for the old middle school site in Halesworth.

It is being part funded by the sale of land owned by HPFA to Castlemeadow Care with these funds being used to provide new facilities for the existing six HPFA clubs.

Once the football club has moved to its new site, Castlemeadow Care will be able to start to build a care home and associated health facilities.

But following a due diligence review, HPFA trustees unanimously passed a vote of no confidence in HCL and has withdrawn from any further merger talks until their concerns have been addressed. HPFA said the review raised several areas of very serious concern, and the group’s solicitor is working to resolve the issues.

However, HPFA said it is still keen to proceed with the merger, once these areas have been addressed.

The association stressed preparation of documents for the sale of the land is well under way and will be signed in the near future, as long as reasons for the vote of no confidence are dealt with.

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In a statement, HPFA said it was “deeply disappointing” to have reached this stage, because it “fully supports the new charity’s objectives”.

The HCL board said in a statement: “We do not understand what has led them to pass this resolution, which we regard as wholly undeserved.”

HCL subsequently received HPFA’s due diligence answers, and also raised some concerns.

But HCL said: “HCL believes that with goodwill these can be dealt with. HCL wishes to press ahead with the merger as soon as possible.”

HPFA said it had been unaware of any concerns and hoped to hear from HCL’s solicitor to work on resolving them.

The project already has a site in place, a developer ready to build the project, a preferred operator for the sports facilities, and a planning application is ready to be submitted. The merging of the two charities is one of the final pieces in the jigsaw to be completed before work can begin.

HCL’s statement said: “Our trustees are united in their commitment to conclude these negotiations as swiftly as possible and deliver this innovative and exciting sports and healthcare development for local people.

“Since the overwhelming support for the project given in the public referendum held in 2012, HCL has always felt that both itself and HPFA are under a strong obligation to deliver the new sports facilities.”

HCL Chairman and Suffolk County Councillor Tony Goldson said: “Both the county and the district councils have been fully behind the Campus project since it began.

“It will address a long-term deficit of sport and leisure facilities and will contribute to improving the physical and mental wellbeing of the local populace.

“The health and social care element is also essential to retaining much needed, in-patient beds in the area, and health care close to home. The county and the district councils would be hugely concerned if they thought that HPFA was contemplating not complying with the 2012 public referendum decision.”

HPFA said that it recognised its obligation to the residents of Halesworth as accountability to the residents is laid down in its Deeds of Trust and will maintain this accountability for the new merged charity.

Halesworth Health, a charity representing the town’s health and care needs said in a statement: “We are very concerned that at this late stage differences have arisen between the two local charities.

“We sincerely hope that these differences can be overcome without delay and that the two charities can work harmoniously to achieve their common objective of essential and much needed facilities for Halesworth and the surrounding villages.”