Calls have been renewed for a public inquiry into what people increasingly see as a potential £1 million “fiasco” over the leasing arrangements at Racing Club Warwick.
As reported last week, the district council is finally trying to put an end to the labyrinthine five-year row between itself, the football club and the Ministry of Defence which has abandoned a new air cadets drill hall on the site.
Racing Club’s present four trustees, Andy Cowlard, Andy Feasey and district councillors Anne Mellor and Bob Dhillon (currently the mayor of Warwick), all feel they can make no comments because of ongoing legal proceedings which involve the club seeking to renew its old lease - which ran out in December last year - plus compensation.
Solicitors’ letters on behalf of the club have been sent to Warwick District Council where leader Andrew Mobbs said last week: “There is a real will to sort this out.”
On Tuesday town and county councillor John Holland (Lab, Warwick West) repeated the call he made 18 months ago for a public inquiry into the whole affair.
Cllr Holland said: “The Ministry of Defence was issued with a lease from the district council which the Land Registry would not accept because it was defective.
“As a result the MoD has moved off the site and the council has agreed to pay them up to £400,000 so that they can build a new drill hall nearby.
“But now we learn that Racing Club Warwick is also demanding compensation to the tune of £575,000 in damages.
“A public inquiry is needed now more than ever. This is the time for anybody who has any evidence at all, or knows anything about this situation, to come forward.”
Cllr Holland recalled how the successful Racing Club, one of several leaseholders on St Mary’s Lands, also used to run a youth club, boxing club and a popular school holiday activities programme.
Town and district councillor Linda Bromley said: “I do not believe the long history of the club should be ignored.
“In the interests of openness and transparency I believe an independent investigation would establish what has happened for the benefit of our taxpayers who will have to foot the bill regarding these issues.”
Nigel Hamilton, who chairs the recently formed Friends of St Mary Lands group, said: “After the fiasco of the district council apparently losing up to £1 million of public money by bungling the simple task of issuing leases, the time has come for a full, wide ranging, public inquiry into how St Mary’s Lands is being managed.
“If council leader Andrew Mobbs truly believes there is a ‘real will to sort this’, the council must be open and accountable to the local residents of Warwick so that mistakes on how tenants are being treated is not repeated into the future. Has anyone at the council been disciplined yet?”
Andy Cowlard, who is chairman of the trustees said: “It would be wrong for me as chairman to make any comment because of the ongoing proceedings.”