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Farce, Fiasco or Tragedy?

Farce Fiasco or TragedyThere have been further developments regarding  proposals for Lowther Gardens, and in particular there are revised plans for the Pavilion / Theatre.

We can't tell if what's currently going on is a fantasy, farce, fiction, fiasco or tragedy. It's definitely not a comedy. But we do think it's an absolute mess.

So we're looking again at what's happened in the ten or so days that have elapsed since our last article on this matter.

SYNOPSIS
We begin with an Introduction of recent events and developments, before considering what happened when plans for Lowther were debated again at FBC Planning Committee

We hear the important information that Mr Yasser Al-Midani had to say in the Public Platform at Planning Committee, after which the Chairman asked the Planning Officer to comment on its importance. He did so hesitatingly and reluctantly, before handing on to Mrs Lord from Fylde's legal staff who advised the Committee further before the vote, which broke along party lines.

Next, we ask Why Can't the Pavilion be Extended? Then we look at How it might have come about, first at Planning, then at the Trustee's Governing Document(s). before deciding that It all hinges on which version is current.

So we then christen three (or maybe four) versions of the Governing Document - Version0, Version1, Version2, and maybe Version3, and, having looked at each of these, we ask So where do we go from here?

First we consider Where we go in Planning, after the permission has been granted, and next we look at Where the Extra-Ordinary Council Meeting on Monday night might go, before offering our own Conclusions

 INTRODUCTION

We published our last counterbalance and its associated documentation (including the legal opinion Fylde had sought and received in 2005 when it was considering adding a civic suite and art gallery, and including a copy of the original 2009 Governing Document for the Lowther Gardens Trust that we had) to show that we did not believe that the Pavilion could be extended or added to with additional buildings.

This is partly because the land on which Lowther Gardens sits has covenants which are shared by some of the surrounding residential properties, the owners of which can enforce them on the Lowther Gardens Trust should they wish to do so, and partly because the Charity Commission requires the Trust to have a Governing Document, and that document prohibits both enlargement of the existing Pavilion, and any additional buildings being provided. It also prohibits any change to the articles of the trust.

We've been constantly surprised by Fylde's approach in this matter.

A behind-closed-doors report was made to the last meeting of the Full Council.

From the accounts of the conduct (rather than the content) of that meeting that reached us (accounts that appear to be confirmed by the official minutes that have been published in the public domain), the meeting ended in uproar and acrimony.

Most especially, the Conservative majority - resplendent in the arrogance that their overall majority affords them - voted down proposals from Cllr Liz Oades to have a full and open debate.

But they were then shell-shocked when the Mayor, Cllr Peter Collins (who, like us, is a stickler for following proper procedure because it ensures proper conduct and should provide fair treatment for all), said he did not believe the Council had received all the information necessary to make a proper decision.

He said further information should be provided and councillors should have time to properly consider it before reaching a decision.

He then used his authority as Mayor to refuse to allow the decision to be taken, and he closed the meeting.

We were told something akin to fury erupted amongst the Conservatives at this move, and we later heard tell of dark threats of desires to remove the Mayor from office and changing the Constitution or otherwise ensuring that only Conservative mayors would be elected in future.

We have two comments to make on this.

We think time will show that - contrary to the sound and fury of that night - that the Council will find it has cause to be very grateful to Cllr Collins for what he did.

We also think that by his action, he alone might have saved the Council from breaking the law or operating outside its constitutional constraints.

Like one of Lowther Gardens' own rock-solid and resinous pine trees, he alone stood up for proper procedure - when the paid officers of the Council (who we believe should have done what he did) seem to be routinely cowed into compliance with a party-political agenda driven by the rampaging arrogance of some influential senior Fylde Conservatives.

Fylde today is a sad and sorry echo of its former proud self.

There is but one cause for this, and that is the arrogance of untrammelled power being wielded for unedifying and self-gratifying pleasure, by a political party with a big outright majority and an even bigger chip on its shoulder.

There's something deeply troubling about what's going on here - as we surmised in our last article.

 LOWTHER AT PLANNING COMMITTEE

The consideration of this matter by Fylde's Planning Committee has not been classified as an 'Exempt Item' so the public were allowed to attend.

There have now been two reports to the Planning Committee, both seeking extensive enlargement and additional buildings within the Gardens.

Both have been reported in glowing terms by officers.

No one seems to have noticed the bigger picture - or they are intentionally choosing to ignore it.

That 'bigger picture' is that irrespective of whether or not it has planning permission, the proposed development may not be made at all, because ANY extension of the building area and ANY additional buildings in the Lowther Gardens are PROHIBITED by an article of the trust under which Lowther Gardens was given to the people.

We explained the background to this matter in our last article.

And before Fylde's Planning Committee of 7th November 2018 considered this matter for the second time - this time as a 'revised' application, they heard from a gentleman who, from what we could see, seemed to be connected with the cafe there.

 Mr Yasser Al-Midani

Spoke in the 'Public Platform' parts of the meeting and said:

"Good morning, I am here to speak on behalf of the nearly 1000 people that have signed the petition that has been handed in, and also to ask you as members of the council, which is a Trustee of Lowther to follow the terms of the governing document for the charity.

I would also like to talk about the Scheme that governs Lowther gardens and the pavilion contained in the emails I sent to you all yesterday, which I received directly from the charities commission.

I understand this may not directly be a planning matter, but I do think the planning committee is the last step of protection for the council before it breaches the terms of the trust imposed by the governing document.

This document states "The trustee must not erect any additional buildings or extend the existing pavilion" so granting planning permission for this application would result in a breach of trust, which all of the trustees including the council would be liable for.

This could lead to a lot of problems if permission is granted and development starts, possibly resulting in the building works being stopped whilst the charity commission investigates. Legal actions could be brought against the trustees including the council and that could risk the council's reputation and funds.

This would not be beneficial to anybody, especially the users of Lowther, ratepayers of the Fylde and visitors.

I therefore ask that the Council speak directly with the charities commission to clarify the position before granting permission. Whether this is done today via a phonecall, or at a later date, I feel it is in everyones interests to have this matter resolved one way or another without risking the availability of facilities that currently exist."

He was followed by the agent, Mr Andy Wolfe, who spoke in support of the application and asked that full planning permission be granted.

After these two public speakers, the chairman asked Fylde's Planning Officer to advise the councillors what weight they should attach to what had been said by Mr Al-Midani about the governance, and about the emails that had been sent the previous night by Mr Al-Midani

 FYLDE'S PLANNING OFFICER

In response to this request from the chairman, Fylde's Planning Officer hesitated for several seconds before (we thought, very shakily and hesitatingly), saying "Erm, OK"

His manner and tone gave us the impression that he was uncomfortable with having been asked to comment on matters that he did not regard as being planning matters within his competence. Nevertheless, having publicly been put on the spot by the Chairman, he appeared obligated to respond, and he continued

"Erm, in terms of dealing with those two matters first then, erm, the weight that could be attached to the petition I think, erm, has to be, erm, dismissed, from our consideration here as a Planning Committee; because it relates to legal matters that are separate from the..., the planning considerations that, that are being, erm, at the heart of our decision.

Erm, in terms of the Charities Commission information, I can't really comment much further on that because I wasn't actually sent the information so I..., I haven't seen the content, the full content, of the email. I've been sent it secondhand this morning, erm, but it didn't come to the Council, so it's not in the Late Observations papers.

However, erm...., I think, erm ...., that Mrs Lord has some information on that which she may be able to assist with today, at this point"

We've included the pauses and hesitations in the officer's response not to criticise or embarrass them, but to give our readers a feel of why we say he appeared to us to be most uncomfortable in providing the answer he did.

To us, it felt as though he knew this was not a straightforward item and he needed to be guarded and careful in his words. We thought he seemed relieved to hand this hot potato on to Mrs Lord (who we believe is part of Fylde's legal staff)

 MRS LORD ADVISES THE COMMITTEE

She picked up from the Planning officer and spoke more confidently, saying:

"Yes Chairman. I understand that the situation with the email that was received, talking about the update of the Governing Body for the Charity, I understand that the information that's been provided, is a summary of updates that have been made to the Governing Body document, and that a full update has been made to the Governing Body document, so the email information that's been received by the speaker isn't full and complete in relation to the updates that have been made

So my understanding is that the Council is satisfied that the Governing Body has...., document..., has been fully updated.

Notwithstanding that, that isn't a planning consideration for the Committee to consider today in any event.

The Council as a Trustee of Lowther Gardens is different to the Council as the Local Planning Authority"

After Mrs Lord spoke, the Planning Officer began his presentation of the planning application for the committee to consider.

The Committee asked questions and debated the application before moving to a vote.

The Planning Application was supported by councillors from the Conservative group - most notably by Vice Chairman Cllr Richard Redcliffe who spoke at length to support the planning application.

We were saddened when he said he thought it would have been what John Talbot Clifton would have wanted. He said it was in the 1920s and for

"Lytham Ladies Orchestra, the first Pavilion was built. And I think that was an indicator for the future, that these gardens..., and I'm sure Talbot, John Talbot intended this in the original concept....."

Clearly he did not intend any building in the original concept.

And also clearly, Cllr Redcliffe - however well intentioned he might have been - did not know the facts when he spoke, because the conditions that John Talbot Clifton had imposed on the gift of the land 15 years earlier expressly precluded any buildings being provided.

We're happy to enlighten all our readers with the details of what John Talbot Clifton wanted, and after the next heading in this article we'll publish a link to a copy of the agreement under which the Council of the day accepted the gift from him, and the conditions he imposed.

Back at the Planning Committee meeting - and to our recollection - councillors who were NOT Conservatives mostly spoke in opposition to approving the application

When it came time for the vote, those non-conservative councillors (in our view properly and very sensibly) asked for it to be a recorded vote: It was

For approval of the application: (7) Councillors Trevor Fiddler, Richard Redcliffe, Michael Cornah, Neil Harvey, Jayne Nixon, Sandra Pitman, Ray Thomas. (all Conservatives)

Against approval of the application: (5) Councillors Jan Barker (Labour), Julie Brickles, Linda Nulty, Liz Oades, and Heather Speak (all Independents).

Abstentions: (0)

We say the call for the recorded vote was very sensible because if, as we expect will be shown, the Council should probably not have considered this planning application at all, and thus it should not have approved the application, there could be some potentially serious consequences for those who voted in favour of it.

Especially after they had been warned by Mr Al-Midani that they risked committing a breach of trust by doing so.

 SO WHY CAN'T THE PAVILION BE EXTENDED?

In our own minds we're sure - and we have been sure all along - that the clauses within the Governing Document explicitly prevent ANY extension of the area of the Pavilion, and they prevent ANY additional buildings being put in the Lowther Gardens.

Reading the original Indenture of 16 Feb 1905 between John Talbot Clifton of Lytham Hall and the (then) Urban District Council of Lytham, gives a real and clear sense of what the benefactor wanted for the land he gave to the people.

Amongst other things this agreement says that "for ever" the council will not - "erect or suffer to be erected on or under any part of the said land any Swings Band stand or any building or erection of any description whatsoever either permanent or temporary without the previous license in writing...."

Barrister William Moffett's opinion summarises those conditions on page 2 - including the condition about prohibiting buildings - and another condition that says the Council will....

'not to permit the Gardens or any part thereof to be used except as a public park or public gardens or for any other purpose than those of recreation and enjoyment;"

We've only reproduced bits of these conditions here, but the full original text of the Indenture shows a clear sense that they are to be kept open and free of buildings and controversy. The gardens are intended to be a place of harmonious, tranquil, relaxation with no religious or political uses, and only quiet games such as bowls, tennis and croquet able to be played within them.

However, at some point these restrictions became forgotten about and the Pavilion was developed (and subsequently extended to what it is today).

Then it all blew up to prominence in 2005 when Fylde sought to install a civic suite and art gallery.

That plan exposed the fact that in all probability, the Pavilion should never have been built at all, and it resulted in the Moffett opinion - accepted by Fylde - that the land did not *belong* to Fylde Council, they held it in trust for the people. It was not theirs to do with as they wished.

Moffett said he thought it likely that the Pavilion could stay as it was at that time, but that Fylde could not increase its size or add new buildings in the gardens.

We've no doubt that these views - based on the wishes of the original benefactor - were uppermost in the minds of the Charity Commission when it negotiated with Fylde Council as to what should be included in the Governing Document for the Lowther Gardens Trust.

It seems to have been agreed between them that it would not be reasonable to require the Council to remove the pavilion that had been there for a long time.

Furthermore, Fylde and the Charity Commission appear to have agreed that most of the other original conditions (e.g. limiting the nature of the games that could be played, and having no political or religious meetings and so on) were not sufficiently important to warrant an explicit condition being made in the Trust's Governing Document.

(And in any case, those conditions remain enforceable in law by some of the property landowners around the gardens who have the benefit of them as covenants in their land as well)

But the Charity Commission and Fylde did consider it a fundamental tenet of the Trust that the pavilion must not be extended, and no additional buildings may be erected in the gardens - and an explicit reference to this prohibition forms part of the Governing Document

And - whilst the Governing Document does allow Trustees to make some amendments - it does explicitly require Trustees NOT to make any amendment which would have the effect - either directly or indirectly - of authorising the Trustees to do anything which is expressly prohibited by the trusts of the charity

And not extending or erecting buildings is one of those Trusts set out to us in a letter from the Charity Commission to us of 2015, which said:

"According to our records this charity is governed by a Scheme dated 3 June 2009. The only restriction within the governing document is contained in Clause 7 which states "the trustees must not erect any additional buildings or extend the existing Pavilion". For information, please find attached a copy of this document."

Fylde has agreed to (or at least accepted) both of these clauses being in the Governing Document.

They know that the Pavilion must not be extended, and they know that they (or any of the other trustees) cannot change the Governing Document to remove this prohibition, yet here they were being recommended to grant (and did eventually grant) planning permission to extend the Pavilion.

So what's going on here?

 HOW CAN THIS HAVE COME ABOUT?

We're not yet in a position to say *why* the Conservatives at Fylde have been supporting this mater so strongly and why Fylde's officers have failed to advise them that extending the Pavilion was something that simply cannot be done under the terms of the trust.

We see two aspects to this matter, planning and trusteeship

 PLANNING

In terms of planning we have something of a puzzle

When a planning application form is completed, the first question requires details of who is submitting the application.

In this case the Applicant was Mr Tim Lince acting as agent for Lowther Gardens (Lytham) Trust.

The final question requires the applicant to certify that "....nobody except myself/the applicant was the owner (owner is a person with a freehold interest or leasehold interest with at least 7 years left to run) of any part of the land....."

We're slightly puzzled about this because, (and we admit our understanding and memory here might be imperfect) but we seem to think that going back to before 2010, Fylde agreed to place the land with an official (possibly Government?) body that holds charitable land (This is usually done to save problems when, for example, Trustees change or perhaps die. It provides continuity).

If Fylde did do this, then we're not sure whether the declaration that was made is correct or not, or whether mention should have been made of the impartial landholder, but we'll have to let better legal brains than ours consider that aspect.

However, our bigger planning puzzle concerns the point in time at which the Council received the planning application, for a development that the Council itself knew it was prohibited from undertaking because of the Trust under which the land was held.

We can understand the arguments advanced by officers that this matter may not be a reliable reasons to refuse planning permission in itself, (but we dispute that such matters could not be taken into account, and we absolutely believe a petition signed by 1,000 people should not have been recommended to be 'dismissed' from consideration by the Planning Committee)

But, that aside, one of the processes that takes place when an application is received is that it is 'validated' by planning officers.

In this case, the application was received on 11 Apr 2018, and it was validated on 13 Apr 2018.

Typically validation involves checking if the applicant has supplied the necessary supporting documents and the planning application fee and so on.

But we're curious as to whether this application can have been a valid application when the applicant themselves was explicitly prohibited from extending the pavilion, had thus no authority seek such a planning permission in the first place.

Again, better brains than us will need to look into this aspect.

Finally in terms of planning, if for any reason, Fylde needs to try to revoke the permission it has given to the Trust, it looks to us as though the process would be quite messy.

That's because the formal notice granting permission was signed on the same day as the decision, and from our reading of the conditions attached to it there doesn't seem much that could be used to say the permission has been granted but had not yet been 'activated' so to speak.

This can sometimes be the case where there is, say, a Section 106 agreement to be signed, (but this application does not seem to have such a provision)

So if it became necessary to pull back from the decision, and FBC were unable to agree with the Trust that the permission should be voluntarily surrendered, then we think that to revoke the permission that has now been granted, it might be the case that a court would have to set the decision aside, and that might require something like Fylde seeking a judicial review of its own decision.

 TRUSTEESHIP AND THE GOVERNING DOCUMENT

This is another puzzle. It controls what a registered charity must, may, and cannot, do.

Given that both we, (and Mr Al-Midani) both believe the Governing Document precludes any extensions to the Pavilion or additional buildings at Lowther Gardens, but the Council seem to believe that the current Governing Document does not preclude extending the building or erecting new ones, we believe our readers will want to know how such a situation could come about.

We can see only three possible reasons for the dichotomy between what Mr Al-Midani said and what the Council's legal officer said.

  1. The Charity Commission is wrong and has either lost or does not know about a change that has been made to the Governing Document

This must be a possibility, but we think it is very unlikely

  1. The other side of that position is that Fylde thinks it has a version of the Governing Document that is more recent than the copy held by the Charity Commission

For the same reason, we think this is really unlikely but we'll look into this more in a minute

  1. The legal officer gave the Committee confusing information and might have misled the committee by speaking about something completely different.

We really don't think this can be the case, but it's just about possible there was some confusion about what the Legal Officer was speaking of when she advised the Committee that Mr Al-Midani did not have the most up to date information.

When we heard her speak, we thought she was being quite clear that she was addressing the point made by Mr Al-Midani (when he had said "The trustee must not erect any additional buildings or extend the existing pavilion") and she argued that he did not have the most up do date version of the Governing Document regarding this matter.

We understood that to mean that Fylde thought there was newer - or a more complete - version of the Governing Document which, at least by her implication, DID permit the pavilion to be extended.

However, when you carefully re-read her words, she repeatedly refers to "Governing *Body* document" rather than the "Governing Document"

It might be that she meant the same thing of course.

But if, for example, she was speaking about changes that had been made some time ago to the Governing Body - to the number and composition of the Trustees (rather than about extending and adding to the existing pavilion") and she was saying Mr Al-Midani did not have the most up to date information on the number of trustees, then what she said definitely DID confuse and mislead us - because we believed she was saying he did not have the complete or up to date information about the ability to extend the Pavilion.

And if we were misled by what she said, we can easily see how councillors might also have been misled as well.

 IT ALL HINGES ON WHICH VERSION.

Irrespective of the above, there also appears to be confusion around changes that have been made to the Governing Document, and which version of it is the current version. So we'll try and see if we can make sense of them.

Fylde might think there have been four versions of it.

We think there have been three:

  • An original which we'll call 'Version 0'
  • Another version after the first amendment to it was made. We'll call this 'Version1'
  • And another version after a second amendment to it was made. We'll call this 'Version 2'

 Version 0

The Gardens became a Registered Charity on 29th November 2006

But at that time they did not have a governance scheme.

That came into being as a 'Scheme to Govern the Charity' and was made under seal on 3 June 2009.

It named the charity as being Lowther Gardens, Lytham and set out its objects.

It named a single Trustee, and that was Fylde Borough Council.

Amongst other things, it said the Trustee must not erect any additional buildings or extend the existing pavilion.

It said the Trustee could make amendments, but it must not make any amendment which would have the effect, directly or indirectly of "...... authorising the Trustee to do anything which is expressly prohibited by the trusts of the charity...."

There were other conditions (unrelated to this matter) as well.

This is the starting version of the Governing Document, and the one we were sent when we made inquires about it a few years ago

 Version 1

This version incorporated amendment number 1, which came about after a Fylde Cabinet meeting in 15 July 2009 agreed to advertise for more trustees from the community. It was decided that up to 6 people would be invited to form a Trustee Board.

In April 2010, Fylde's Cabinet was told there had been 14 expressions of interest from which 7 people were selected for interview, and 5 of these were invited to become trustees.

It was expected that the new, broader spectrum, Board of Trustees would be in place in July 2010 and they would gradually take ownership of all aspects of the operation of Lowther Gardens and Pavilion, and of the trust, consistent with their responsibilities as trustees.

On 17 January 2011, the first amendment to the scheme was agreed by the Charity Commission.

This increased the number of Trustees from just one (FBC) and it set out how Trustees would be appointed, their eligibility, how meetings would be called, voting, minutes, and other similar administrative arrangements as to how the larger group of Trustees would operate.

This amendment made no changes to the prohibitions on extending the Pavilion or providing additional buildings, and it did not change the prohibition that prevented trustees amending anything which was expressly prohibited by the trusts of the charity.

 Version 2

This version incorporated amendment No 2 which was a very simple amendment. It was only to change the banking arrangements to permit the operation of internet banking.

This amendment was made pursuant to a Trustee resolution of 18 May 2015.

It made no changes to the original prohibitions on extending the Pavilion or providing additional buildings, and it did not change the prohibition that prevented trustees amending anything which was expressly prohibited by the trusts of the charity.

And that's where we believe,  (and think from what he said, Mr Al-Midani believes) the matter rested - and still rests.

 Version 3 ???

But, it appears that Fylde thinks there has been another amendment made to the Governing Document since the 18 May 2015 amendment.

Fylde seem to believe that this further amendment overturns or supersedes the prohibition on extending the Pavilion (that is set out in the original Governing Document - and which has not been changed by any of the two subsequent amendments).

So, if it is the case that Fylde think that a further amendment exists, then we are led, inexorably, to ask why on earth they think this can exist when the Charity Commission's website knows nothing about it, and only lists the two amendments we have set out above.

It's really difficult to come up with an answer to this, and the only thing we can think of is that someone might have invented or drafted a newer version of the Governing Document, or a new amendment to it, (which does allow extensions and additions to the Pavilion) but without having had that amendment accepted or agreed by the Charity Commission, and this has either been given to, or has otherwise found its way into Fylde's paperwork system, and Fylde came to believe it was a real amendment.

And if that's the case, they've been basing all their predictions and the planning permissions and so on, on a worthless piece of paper that says they can do something that is impossible.

And that's not to mention the support that's been expressed in the Council for the 'redeveloped' and enlarged pavilion that the trusts of the Charity actually prevent from happening

And it's not to mention the people and businesses over the last few years that might have been asked for, and might even have put money into, a scheme to redevelop the Pavilion that can never be built.

Oh Dear.

If that's anywhere near the real situation, we expect there will be all sorts of trouble flowing from this.

Heads will undoubtedly roll, and depending on how this situation has come about, there could be some quite serious sanctions - and maybe even prosecutions.

 SO WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?

 Planning

Assuming we're right (and there is no valid third amendment to the Governing Document), readers should prepare themselves for a last fling of the dice in case the Trustees (perhaps even with Fylde's support) do now ask the Charity Commission to change the terms of the trust to permit expansion of the Pavilion.

The Trustees might argue that the Planning Permission they have been granted changes the situation, and there is a lot of public support for the idea, so it should change the trust.

We take a very different view. The trusts are based not on public opinion, nor on Fylde's (questionable) planning permission. They are based on what John Talbot Clifton wanted (and what he said he wanted) in the agreement by which he donated, and the Council accepted, the land for the people of Lytham and surrounding area.

So; if we were the Charity Commission we'd want to be asking Fylde how, as a Trustee, it might be the case that they have granted permission on land that can never be implemented, and we'd also be wondering about Fylde's suitability and competence as a Trustee of the Charity at all.

And if it was to turn out that there had been some deliberate intention to falsify data somewhere along the line, we can't see the Charity Commission (or maybe the police) going a bundle on that idea either.

So we struggle to see how the trust that currently exists could be changed, but some folk are so entrenched in this plan they might not want to give it up, so think we might see a rearguard action to actually try to amend the terms of the Governing Document going forward.

On the specific matter of the planning permission that's just been granted, we think that sooner or later, the real-life situation is that someone will have to come to terms with the fact that the Pavilion cannot be extended, and either persuade the Trustees to let the permission lapse after three years, or maybe look for ways to revoke the permission - if agreement cannot be reached.

The first of those wouldn't be done in the public gaze, so that's what we think is most likely happen

But of course, that depends whether the current trustees remain in their positions.

If they were to leave and cease to be trustees, then Fylde would become the sole trustee again and take the decisions itself - at least until new trustees could be found.

That might be an attractive route out of the swamp for some people.

 Extra-ordinary Council Meeting

This is going to be held on 19th November and, once again, it's an exempt item (press and public excluded) meeting held behind closed doors.

Again, we're not able to produce hard facts about this meeting.

With it being an exempt item we're not getting any information from the agendas or from the inside so, as with the previous article, we're having to rely on what we can glean from limited public documents, and what our experience of such situations tell us.

What we do believe is that this meeting isn't going to be much about planning, and its not so much about the Governing Document, its more about going to law - which is probably why it justifies its 'exempt' status.

We think - as we said in the last article - it's probably about potential (or maybe actual) legal action being taken by the Lowther Gardens Trust or their cafe lessee, probably about termination of the cafe lease.

There are few 'proper' reasons to terminate a commercial lease, but one of the stronger ones is when the landlord wants to take back the property to use for themselves. And when you add that logic into what we already know (about the matter being about someone's business affairs, and about legal professional privilege) it seems like that might be the underlying situation here.

Now, if there is some sort of pending legal action, and that action depends or relies on claims that the Pavilion can be extended when it cannot (because of the terms of the trust), then your case as the landlord just got weaker, and thus more difficult to win.

And if that redevelopment scheme had been used as a major plank of a legal case to take the cafe / catering back in-house, and that plank is no longer there to stand on, then the probable costs of losing a legal action might be quite frightening for an organisation without deep pockets.

This heads us into another vision that's emerging for us.

If that's where you're at, and the legal case was set in motion before the trustees knew or understood the likely costs - or worse still, if it was only after the legal action commenced, that you found you can't do the extensions because they are prohibited by the terms of the trust, then you might now be panicking - and looking for financial support.

And if you're looking for someone with deep pockets, you might be looking at an organisation like FBC.

They have deep pockets, and they are already a Trustee.

So maybe this series of secret Council meetings is about whether Fylde taxpayers should support the legal costs of the Trust to terminate the cafe lease.

That would seem to fit, and at least it would explain why it's all being done behind closed doors.

So we would not be shocked to find that the extra-ordinary Council meeting on Monday will be debating matters such as we have surmised here.

 CONCLUSIONS

If it turns out that all of this has been based on a false premise - on an amendment to the Governing Document that does not exist.

If it turns out that Fylde Council was hoodwinked, or worse still, was complicit in, an enormous con trick to circumvent the trusts that it should be protecting and holding dear.

If it turns out that officers have been incompetent in this matter, or been under so much pressure they have failed to perform their duty impartially.

If it turns out that information has been deliberately withheld, or provided late, so as to limit councillors ability to properly scrutinise what is going on,

If it turns out that Councillor Peter Collins, the current Mayor of Fylde, is shown to have been right to refuse to allow a decision to be rushed through the last Council meeting with insufficient information being provided and insufficient time to consider the implications of whatever it was that was being proposed.

And most especially, if it turns out to be the case that, as a result of his refusal, information HAS subsequently come to light to show that all of this has all been based on a false premise, then we call for those involved in this shameful debacle to consider their positions

Finally, if something like we have imagined here, does turn out to be the case; then for his integrity, and his strength of character, and his personal bravery in standing almost alone against the weight of opinion, then in terms of protecting the reputation integrity of Fylde Council, Cllr Peter Collins will be seen to have towered head and shoulders above all the Mayors of Fylde that we can recall in the last 30 or more years.

This is not over yet.

Dated:  16 November 2018

 

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