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Bowlers at sold off club ask: Where is our money?

Directors say complex financial arrangements take time to resolve

07 October, 2019 — By Dan Carrier

Mansfield Bowling Club members

MEMBERS of a bowling club that closed six years ago and sold its base on land in a highly sought-after part of Dartmouth Park have yet to receive their full share of the funds.

Now they are calling on two directors in charge of managing the £2.6million raised from the sale to explain the delay.

The site of Mansfield Bowling Club has stood unused since 2013 when it closed amid falling membership. Developers Generator Group completed the purchase of the land in 2017 after winning permission to build 21 homes.

Members are in line for a share of the proceeds but some bowlers say they remain in the dark about when they will be paid.

Bowler Colin Mason, who was a member of the club for 37 years, said: “Members are concerned about what they feel has been a lack of transparency over the club’s on-going affairs and what we feel is the limited amount of information the directors have shared with people who are due a share of the club’s assets and financial transactions.”

He added that they felt directors Adrian Pruss and Andy Docker have not been clear over how the club’s affairs have been managed.

“We are concerned to learn the directors have paid themselves a wage from the club’s funds without members, whose money it ultimately is, having input to this figure,” said Mr Mason.

“And we question other aspects of their ongoing management – for example, the need to rent an office to manage a club which has closed. After more than 100 years of bowling, the club folded and it was on the watch of the people who are now taking a long time to give members what is owed to them.”

He added: “We feel the best way for this to come to a conclusion would be for the directors to resign their positions, the club to appoint a neutral solicitor to take on the club’s affairs, and put all accounts and financial information in the hands of members so we can understand what has been spent and why, and when members can expect to receive a share.”

Mr Docker, who is the current president of the Middlesex County Indoor Bowling Association, and Mr Pruss, told the New Journal they had been working hard to tie up the club’s remaining business, adding they had kept everyone eligible for a share of the sale informed and that all accounts are audited and published at Companies House, in accordance with law.

They said they were not in a position to confirm when approximately 115 club members may receive a share of the sale – and that an interim payment of £3,000 had been made – as they had been taking advice over tax and would be applying to the High Court to rule the distribution system was fair and equitable.

Under their plans, members would receive different payouts depending on the type of membership they had held.

The directors say they estimate a full member will receive up to £13,000, adding they had themselves only earned a“min­­i­­mal fee” for their work.

“We know, through our backgrounds, how much it would cost to outsource this work and so instead we have done it ourselves and come up with a figure we thought was fair,” they said.

What will happen to prime Dartmouth Park site?

WHILE the Generator Group had worked with the club to get a development scheme of 21 new houses through planning, a brick has yet to be laid on the land.

A second group has now expressed interest in the site – and are still hoping, if the price is right, to make progress.

CoHo, formed by community land trust expert Stephen Hill and Dartmouth Park-based architect Jo Van Heynigan, had hoped to build a set of homes that would be communally owned, with the land held in a trust.

They have watched as work has stalled to a halt after the club house was demolished – and the site was marketed by estate agents Savills.

Mr Hill told the New Journal: “CoHo are still interested.”

They say the split ownership of the land – the bowling club retains ownership of a northern section, which is earmarked for tennis courts and a park – adds an extra degree of uncertainty, and that they would be happy to see it taken off the club’s hands and run by a community-based not-for-profit group.

He added: “The developer has to make their mind up. We have members of our scheme ready to take on the market rate homes and we are actively looking for a housing association to act as a partner for the affordable housing.”

He added the fear that Generator will “landbank” the site – mothballing it and allowing to lie derelict until the housing market improve – was a possibility.

He said: “There is the worry it will be simply landbanked for the next 10 years. If that was to happen, the local authority should be looking at compulsorily acquiring the site from the developers so this potential community asset is not wasted and left lying unused.”

The Generator Group did not respond to a request for comment but in 2017, when the site was first marketed, director Frank Amato said: “For operational reasons we are considering a disposal of the site.”

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