Amesbury History Centre
Where History Begins
It is with great regret that the Chair of Trustees of Amesbury History Centre has to report that a letter has been received from the Clerk of Amesbury Town Council, stating that the Council has ended its relationship with the charity and its trustees. At the meeting of the Full Council on Tuesday 5 October, the councillors reached the decision not to continue with the negotiations over the terms of the lease for the new building in Church Street.
In January 2021, following a detailed presentation of the Trustees' vision and business plan, the full Council voted to agree the Heads of Terms and the Service Level Agreement to be submitted to the Town Council’s solicitor for the creation of a lease agreement. This was based on a low/peppercorn rent for the first 10 years to be reviewed thereafter.
Unexpectedly, a new lease was received by the trustees from the Town Council that contained a clause increasing the rent after 10 years to a maximum of £15,000 per year and obliging the trustees as tenants to be financially responsible for all repairs to the building including the structure. It was made clear to the Council that, as a not-for-profit charity providing a free venue to celebrate the rich local history, the trustees could not possibly bind themselves to the imposition of fixed costs based on commercial rates halfway through the proposed 20-year lease term because it could render the charity bankrupt or having to withdraw from the lease agreement via a break clause.
After a constructive meeting with the Council’s History Centre Committee, it was agreed that the building's structural repairs would be the Council’s responsibility and via our solicitors, we would jointly explore a flexible mechanism to set a fair future rent based on our financial performance rather than a fixed amount. Based on this breakthrough, the trustees were optimistic that they could reach an agreement on the lease. However, for reasons unclear to the trustees, the Council has now decided to reverse its decision to explore a flexible rent-fixing mechanism and unilaterally severed its relationship with the trustees.
The trustees are shocked and disappointed by this decision. However, they remain convinced that the current Board of Trustees are best placed to make a success of the new building in showcasing Amesbury’s uniquely rich history for the benefit of the people of Amesbury and so will continue to work hard to resolve the current impasse.