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THCH Meeting with HCC

We met with Councillor Russell Oppenheimer and officers in Winchester yesterday afternoon. The first thing to say is that Councillor Oppenheimer had definitely understood the strength of opinion which you have all expressed in the vast number of emails he had received. He had also recently met with the Leader Cllr Humby, the Deputy Leader Cllr Chadd and the Executive Member for Universal Services Cllr Adams King: they too had taken note of the strength of opinion conveyed in your emails. Many, many thanks for all your messages to these councillors. He had also met with Cllr Woodward who repeated strongly the views included in the letter he and the two MPs had sent last week (see Latest News). The less good news is that Haven House will be going on the market by the end of this week with Savills estate agents. To be honest, we always expected that would be the case so we were far from surprised to have it confirmed. They expect to assess what bids they have received within six to eight weeks. However, our bid - the original one submitted 13 June with the additional proposals sent in on 14 September - will 'remain on the table' to be compared with what they receive via Savills. Councillor Oppenheimer and the officers requested some clarification of aspects of our bid and we will be glad to supply that. An important part of that is the description of the community benefits which would be achieved if Hampshire were to agree the sale - at less than market terms - to THCH. They have also asked us to send information showing our 'confidence levels' about raising the funds necessary to both purchase and refurbish Haven House. We feel able to indicate that our confidence levels are high, thanks to all of you. For reasons which we frankly do not understand, Councillor Oppenheimer and the officers remain of the view that it would be far better for them to continue with their plan of putting visitor reception and staff facilities in a new building in the back yard, rather than continue to use the existing entrance, plus the room we have offered for staff. This seems particularly incomprehensible in the light of Hampshire’s well publicised financial difficulties, since our proposal would not only save them capital but would generate far higher visitor numbers and the resulting revenue. Taking up our offer would require no capital investment on HCC’s part and would only cost them some £10,000pa in revenue costs. This, together with our cash offer of £200,000 and the proceeds of sale from Haven Cottage would more than cover HCC’s funding requirements. It is difficult to know what message to leave you with, as it is more than possible that Hampshire may receive some extremely attractive offers for Haven House and they may well settle with a private buyer. But the door has at least been left open a crack for THCH and we shall continue to do all we can to press our case.

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