Our final post is about the negotiations between GRASS Cliftonville CIC and Thanet District Council (TDC) regarding our Margate Town Deal (MTD) Grant Agreement. This agreement is crucial for the release of the remaining £475,000 in funding required to undertake the regeneration of The Oval Bandstand, which includes the construction of a new community building and essential repair works to the sunken amphitheatre.
For over eight months we have been engaged in negotiations with TDC, regularly expressing our concerns about the “Publicity” clauses and the inclusion of a Non-disclosure Agreement (NDA) clause within our MTD Grant Agreement. These clauses have been a point of contention, as we believe they serve TDC’s desire to control us and shape the narrative surrounding the project, rather than genuinely protecting the funding. Legal advice from two lawyers supports our position, as they also deem these clauses unduly burdensome.
Furthermore, our experience working with other funders over the past five years has shown that these types of clauses are not typically included in grant agreements. Thus, we find them restrictive and unnecessary.
We raise the question of why TDC is so insistent on retaining these minor publicity clauses, as it should not be an issue for them to address our request to make them reciprocal, which is all we have been asking for.
During the months of negotiation on the grant agreement, TDC did not mention any additional due diligence requirements until we expressed our unwillingness to sign the agreement. We interpret this as an attempt to pressure us into accepting an agreement that fails to meet our expectations.
We would also like to emphasise that GRASS underwent a thorough due diligence process before being selected by TDC for the acquisition of The Oval as part of the community asset transfer process. Despite being deemed the most suitable organisation to possess the freehold of a historic coastal asset through a competitive bidding process, TDC now implies that we are unsuitable to deliver the MTD regeneration project associated with that asset. This inconsistency raises concerns about the council’s decision-making process.
It is crucial to note that the government revised its guidance for all the Town Deals last year, allowing for the reallocation of funds to already approved projects instead of requiring a return of funds if a project does not proceed. We question if TDC is attempting to create a situation where they can view us as unsuitable, thereby reallocating our project funds elsewhere, potentially to their own projects facing funding shortfalls due to inflation.
Over the past few months, we have reached out to councillors from all parties in search of support. Unfortunately, it appears that their ability to effect change or address these concerns is severely limited, as the primary authority rests with TDC officers and their discretionary decision-making.
As a small community organisation with limited resources, we cannot afford to associate ourselves with the constant shortcomings and inefficiencies of the MTD regeneration team. Furthermore, the strained relationship between GRASS and the Director of Regeneration has rendered it impossible for us to deliver our project successfully. Despite our own challenging circumstances, it remains vital that TDC fulfils its obligations for all the other Margate Town Deal projects. We encourage you, the Margate community, to advocate for this by reaching out to your councillors, writing to the chair and members of the MTD Board (assuming they are still in their positions, as they should consider resigning in protest over this regrettable situation), and participating in peaceful demonstrations. Let your voices be heard. The people of Margate deserve better than the current performance of the MTD regeneration team.
Lastly, we would like to reassure everyone that, despite these unfortunate developments, we remain committed to securing the future of The Oval Bandstand & Lawns. We will persist in regenerating this historic asset by obtaining funding from elsewhere, ensuring its role as a vibrant community events venue for years to come. We anticipate significant resistance from TDC as a consequence of exposing the considerable shortcomings of the MTD regeneration team and senior officers. However, with the unwavering support of our amazing community, we will recover from this distressing experience, more determined than ever to succeed and contribute to the future prosperity of Margate. Please continue to attend our events and spread the word about The Oval Bandstand & Lawns and the invaluable work undertaken by GRASS Cliftonville CIC for both the community and visitors alike.
Thank you for your unwavering support.
GRASS Cliftonville CIC