The following statement was issued to the Knutsford Guardian in response to a statement sent by the council’s tenant, La Belle Epoque Limited.
Knutsford Town Council takes seriously its multiple responsibilities as a landlord, custodian of one of the Town’s most treasured buildings and, as a council, its responsibilities to the tax payers of Knutsford.
The Town Council has considerable obligations under the lease to maintain the exterior of 60 King Street and has spent over £200,000 in the past six years with another £50,000 of works planned for 2018. At the same time, the rental income from the tenant has meant we have been able to keep the precept down by £21,500 each year.
The tenant has been in arrears of rent since 2015 through which time the council had sought to be extremely patient. The tenant missed numerous informal agreements on when debts would be settled and it was with regret that the council has had to progress no fewer than four legal proceedings to recover the debts which have included claims via the County Court and most recently a wind-up petition.
This has, naturally, put a great strain on the relationship between the Town Council as landlord and its tenant, La Belle Epoque Limited and this is deeply regrettable. However not receiving the income we were due would begin to affect our ability to maintain this iconic Grade II* Listed Building and our ability to minimise the council tax paid by our residents; this was a situation considered unacceptable by the council.
The Town Council disputes it has responsibility to clean the exterior of the building of pigeon mess but has put in place plans to minimise pigeon roosting on the building; this requires Listed Building Consent and the Council’s agent has been in discussions with the Conservation Officer regarding this.
The Town Council had planned to undertake a programme of high-level works which would require the erection of scaffolding for an extended period; we have had difficulty in arranging these works due to the disruption it would have on the tenant’s business but we are proactively seeking to arrange these when we are able to agree with the tenant a suitable period.
There are further ancillary issues, including the unauthorised installation of decking and the repair of the staircase in the tower which is a tenant responsibility. Throughout all discussions the Town Council has made it clear that the payment of the rent is of paramount importance.
The Town Council has agreed to mediation in an effort to seek to resolve issues and repair relations between us as Landlord and La Belle Epoque Limited and throughout the Council has never refused mediation.