Football club dispute costs council £6,000

Legal discussions between Cornard United Football Club and the parish council over a pitch lease have cost taxpayers more than £6,000 to date.

A 25-year lease of council-owned Blackhouse Lane was drawn up by the parish council as an asset for owner Chris Symes to sell to a prospective new owner, whose identity has not yet been revealed, around two years ago, according to council manager Michael Fitt.

He said Mr Symes was unwilling to get a solicitor involved which has resulted in delays and increased legal fees.

“Our legal costs are just over £6,000,” said Mr Fitt. “It has cost a lot more than was expected to negotiate a lease.”

He said legal advice was necessary due to the complicated nature and total value of the lease – potentially more than £30,000 over 25 years – and because Cornard United had become a limited company.

“A solicitor has to deal with the lease to make sure all bases are covered,” he said.

“We offered him the lease as a tangible asset to sell to a new owner as he had run the club for so long, as a gesture of goodwill.

“This could have all been sorted out a year ago if Chris had gone to a solicitor.”

Mr Fitt said the council’s solicitors were currently negotiating with the prospective owner’s representatives.

Mr Symes and the council also disagree over the amount of unpaid pitch fees owed for the club’s use of Blackhouse Lane. Mr Symes said he owes £625 for the latest season’s fees, while the council claims he owes £2,500 as the last four seasons’ fee should be double what was paid.

Mr Fitt said: “At the end of the day, we will get this sorted and the club will have a lease for its ground and a new owner.” Mr Symes declined to comment.