The report from the Communities and Leisure Officer updated the Committee regarding community use of the Dartford Cricket Club Ltd.’s pavilion in Hesketh Park for the year ending October 2021. Details of that use in the period under reviews were set out in the Club’s Community Use Information – October 2021 leaflet, attached as Appendix A to the report.
The Chairman welcomed Mr Harry Bright, Chairman of Dartford Cricket Club Ltd (DCC) to the proceedings, and invited Members to pose questions on the report and attached appendix.
The Vice-Chairman expressed his concern at the lack of detail in the DCC leaflet. In particular a lack of comparative data from the previous 2020 season, and an absence of any stated aims or targets for the forthcoming 2022 season.
The Leisure and Communities Officer reminded Members that the DCC paid the Council rent for the use of the Pavilion building in Hesketh Park under a 25 year lease agreement [report para 3.1 refers]. An SLA was not appropriate to a rental agreement and the DCC were not obliged to identify specific annual aims and objections as part of their tenancy arrangements with the Council. However, as the operator of a facility that had benefitted from significant Council investment, DCC were invited to submit a short annual review for publication which summarised their activities and links with the community [report 3.2 and 3.3 and Cabinet Min. No. 59 of 2016 refer], as set out in Appendix A to the report.
Mr Bright, DCC Chairman, advised Members that due to the Pandemic, DCC had been in almost continuous lock-down in the period under review, a situation which had inevitably impacted on the Club’s performance. The Government’s Furlough scheme had helped the Club to retain staff and more games had now been played in the 2021 reporting period than in 2019. The Junior cricket team continued to flourish and the Senior team had been promoted to the higher Division. The Club continued to attract a good social, gender and ethnic mix to its activities, and had continued to be a point of reference for St. John’s Ambulance training for S.E. England. But the Club’s finances were limited and the Pandemic had imposed a considerable fiscal strain on its activities in the period under review.
He advised Members that the Club’s requirement to maintain the Outfield playing surface in Hesketh Park under the terms of its rental agreement with the Council had been a major financial burden during the Pandemic. The Outfield had been devastated during the successive periods of COVID-19 lock-down, when Hesketh Park had been subjected to vastly increased levels of foot-fall as the public sought respite from lock-down and undertook a wide selection of recreational activities in the park, including impromptu games of football.
Hesketh Park as a whole had also suffered from an infestation of Leather Jacket beetles which had further damaged the turf in the Outfield. Fox and domestic pet activity had exacerbated that damage to the Outfield resulting in deep holes in the playing surface. The Outfield had now repaired and re-seeded back to pre-Pandemic standards and was now ready for the new 2022 season. He acknowledged the ‘thin’ nature of the Club’s October 2021 Community Use Information leaflet and undertook to provide greater detail in the Club’s 2022 document.
The Ward Member for Newtown supported the DCC Chairman in his comments to the Committee. He continued to hold his constituent surgeries in the Pavilion building in Hesketh Park and praised the Club’s efforts overall, in what had been a very challenging 2 year period for the DCC, particularly in terms of the repair to the Outfield and the significant financial burden that had imposed on the Club.
In response to further questions from individual Members the DCC Chairman confirmed the following additional points:
· Particular success stories in the period under review had been the hosting of the ‘Quantum Games’ and maintaining coaching for the 5-8 and 8-11 year old groups;
· Sky T.V. and other ‘luxury’ facilities offered by the Club in the Pavilion had been withdrawn in an effort to balance day to day running costs;
· The Club was aiming to establish a fiscal reserve in the coming months to finance much needed repairs including; to the Pavilion façade, the half-yearly lift inspection, and repair work related to the extensive leak from a drinks dispensing machine.
The Leader of the Council addressed Members in his capacity as the Chairman of Cabinet. He advised that it was not always appropriate for the Council to impose increased metrics or targets on tenants of a Council property. But where the tenant agreed to do so, it was always likely to be helpful. The annual update provided by the Club was to inform the Committee of DCC’s community activity undertaken at a sports facility that had benefitted from substantial Council investment [Cabinet Min No. 59 refers]. The Council’s policy was to invest in sports and leisure facilities and he pointed to investments in cricket, rugby, football and the Fairfield pool & sports centre. These were all means of investing in the community, and engendering greater social inclusion through the provision of sporting facilities accessible to all in society: not to make a profit.
1. That the Committee note the report.