Council Defend Rent Rises for Sports Clubs

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Sports in Chiswick

Hounslow Council have defended their policy of increased rents on properties used by local sports and social clubs. The rises are putting financial pressure on local clubs such as a tennis club in Chiswick and a scout troop in Brentford which could force them out of existence.

Chiswick Tennis Club on Burlington Lane is faced with a rent bill that is doubling from £7,500 to £15,750. They were forced to take the Council to court to get a reduction in the original rent demand but still say they will not be able to afford the increase.

The chairman of the club, Peter Coy, has been quoted as saying that he believes the Council wish to force closure to free up the land for property development. The Council regard the property as being part of its commercial property portfolio and do not see it as part of its community sports strategy.

A Council spokesperson said of the tennis club, "the rent under the old lease dates back five years, and the market rate has increased in that time. An independent firm specialising in the valuation of leisure and sports premises was appointed by the Council to review the rent, and as the lease for the clubhouse has come up for renewal, the Council is currently in negotiations with the Club's management."

The club was originally called the Riverside Tennis club as its former premises were by the yacht basin in Hartington Road. It was established in 1922 and rehoused by the Council on the current site on Staveley Road. With the arrival of the Riverside Sports and Racquets Club it was forced to change its name to avoid confusion.

Old Meadonians Football Club have also recently vacated the premises which they shared with the tennis club. They made the decision to move prior to the rent increase as they felt they were being asked to shoulder a disproportionate amount of the costs. They have been offered a long lease at the Council's Boathouse at Barnes Bridge sharing with a local rowing club. This ends a 40 year long association with the club house and the team photos and regalia have been moved out.

The departure of the football team represents a double whammy for the tennis club which will now have to shoulder the full cost of the rent which they previously shared with Old Meads.

The tennis club premises is part of the council's commercial property portfolio and is therefore not considered part of the community sports strategy. Hounslow spokesperson said, "Rents for commercial properties are set by the Council, taking into account current market rates for the local area, and rent reviews are carried out when the lease allows for it. Any proposed increases have to be justified by comparable evidence, so if the market evidence isn't there, rents won't rise. There are also appropriate and standard mechanisms in place if the parties cannot agree on the rent to be paid."

November 5, 2006