Monday, 10 March 2008

Going, going gone!

For some people the clatter of the letter box on a morning holds no excitement – we know what is – bills and junk mail. For Mr Ahmed Khan however (Independent candidate for the Beacon and Bents Ward), there is still that little bit of apprehension because somewhere in the corridors of power in South Shields Town Hall, some body agrees with what he has to say. Not only do they agree with what he has to say, they are prepared to help him in his efforts to prove that South Tyneside Council is not the crown jewel that it thinks it is. Hence many of the things which land on his door step have yet to enter the public realm. Indeed, some of them have been produced with the sole intention that they never enter this arena.

An example of an item which is not yet released for public attention is the decision to award the 125 year lease for the Lizard Lane Caravan Park to MSA Developments Ltd for £590,000. A search of company records at Companies House show that MSA Developments is based at The Old Hall in Glossop. So are Little Haven Beach Ltd, and so are the owners of the Little Haven Hotel, South Shields. The all share the same address because they are all controlled by the same people.

MSA Developments (MSA) weren’t the highest bidders for the park. A company called Callaly Leisure Ltd were. Callaly Leisure has been operating caravan parks for more than twenty years. By comparison MSA have only been involved for 10 years. Callaly also offered £1 million for the Park, £410,000 more than the winners of the bid. A third bidder, Hill Brothers, offered £450,000 (though they initially offered £1,015,000) and are described as having “extensive experience and currently operate over twenty caravan parks throughout the UK”.

Callaly Leisure and Hill Brothers were eliminated from the tendering proposals (Callaly actually withdrew their offer after it could not agree terms with the Council). With MSA the remaining developer, they have been by default awarded the contract.

A far more suspicious person than myself might regard this scenario as having more holes than Swiss cheese.

- Councillor I Malcolm sang the praises of the Little Haven Hotel at a recent Regeneration and Resources Scrutiny Committee, yet he opposed the original development of the site.
- The Little Haven Hotel was a strong supporter of opposition to the Tailstock development plans for Gypsies Green. There support as of late has suffered a remarkable u - turn. Many people are wondering why?
- The Callaly Leisure bid was over £1 million. The Council deemed they did not supply enough information to support their offer. Hill Brothers were also viewed as not supplying enough information. With over forty years experience between them in the caravan park business, these two firms were apparently not able to supply the correct supporting documents. MSA, with only ten years in the leisure business and not necessarily in the caravan environment, were able to do. Many people are wondering why MSA was spot on with its submission, yet the other two (more experienced) companies were not? Apparently the word “prior knowledge” is being touted in political circles.

Who knows, the stark difference in the tone of the tenders may be a matter for the Auditor, as the Council are legally bound to follow the “best value” principal. I also hope that MSA Developments don’t immediately increase ground rents etc, as have the new owners (Northumberland Leisure) of the Sandhaven Caravan Park (I also hope for the sake of the Gazette that they have a better media friendly approach).

If the Council has any concerns for the existing tenants or any degree of foresight, it will also secure their financial well being before MSA take over the lease.



Ahmed said...

What next ... I wonder?

Anonymous said...