Agenda item

Cobtree Estate Update Report


The Leisure Manager presented his report providing an update on activities at the Cobtree Manor Estate since the last meeting of the Committee in June 2020.  It was noted that:


·  Cobtree Manor Park had been very busy since it reopened to vehicles in May 2020.  Car park income was recovering and was expected to be fully recovered compared to pre-COVID-19 levels by the end of this financial year.


·  The Golf Course continued to be busy and the Officers were working with MyTime Active, the contractor, to ensure a sustainable long-term operation post-COVID-19.  MyTime Active had requested a two year rental holiday which the Charity would not be able to agree to because of the impact it would have on its own cash flow.  Discussions were continuing with MyTime Active and further updates would be reported to the Committee.


·  Visitor numbers at Kent Life continued to be high and a number of autumn events were planned.


·  The Elephant House was currently out of use because of health and safety and building regulations concerns.  The tenant was keen to address these issues, but the Charity was unable to pre-pay for any works on behalf of the tenant due to the current financial situation.


·  The Cobtree Café was continuing to work on a take-away basis and trade was recovering.  Discussions would take place with the contractor about how the Café would operate during the autumn/winter months taking into account recent changes to the COVID-19 restrictions in relation to social gatherings.


·  The amended contracts and other ancillary documents required as a result of the Committee’s decisions in respect of COVID-19 related contractual relief had been prepared and it was now necessary to ensure that the Charity receives all of the contract income due in order that its position is protected at all times from cash flow issues.


·  The Cobtree Young Farmers had established the paddocks on Forstal Field with high quality fencing surrounding the entire site.  Animal shelters and running water had also been installed to support the operation and the land was now being farmed with sheep and cattle.


In response to questions by Members, the Leisure Manager advised the Committee that:


·  The Golf Course development works, which included the refurbishment and extension of the existing clubhouse rather than a new build as originally proposed, were required as part of the contract with MyTime Active.  The works were due to commence in the spring but had been delayed due to COVID-19.  MyTime had indicated that they would struggle to carry out the works at this time and discussions were continuing.  It was proposed to carry out the works to the Golf Course itself in two stages with nine holes open during each stage.  This would be a temporary arrangement and a full eighteen-hole course would be available on completion of the works.


·  DAGT, the operator of the Cobtree Café, had not yet signed the agreement required to activate the contractual relief agreed by the Committee at its last meeting and had not paid any money owed.  The operator had asked for further rental reductions mainly due to the fact that the rent had gone up (the rent goes up automatically every year) and had cited the difficulties being experienced as a result of COVID-19.  The Officers had put forward payment plans but were struggling to engage with the operator.  The audited accounts were due at the end of September.


Members were concerned that no payments had been received from the Cobtree Café operator and that the operator had failed to engage with the Officers to seek to resolve the outstanding issues.  Wishing to consider the options available to the Charity in private, the Committee:


RESOLVED:  That the public be excluded from the meeting for the following item of business because of the likely disclosure of exempt information for the reason specified, having applied the Public Interest Test:



Head of Schedule 12A and Brief Description


Cobtree Café

3 – Financial/Business Affairs


Having discussed this matter in private, and given instructions to the Officers as to how to proceed, including inviting the Cobtree Café operator to attend a meeting with the Officers and the Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Committee as soon as possible to discuss the situation, the Committee:


RESOLVED:  That the public be re-admitted to the meeting.


FURTHER RESOLVED:  That the update on activities at the Cobtree Manor Estate since the last meeting of the Committee in June 2020 be noted and that the Cobtree Young Farmers be thanked for their work in introducing conservation grazing at Forstal Field.


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