Statement by The Directors of Wootton Courtenay Villagers’ Stores Ltd
To date, the Directors have maintained complete discretion and integrity about the ongoing negotiation with Andy. We genuinely considered the matter to be a confidential negotiation between landlord and tenant. Unfortunately, this is no longer the case and misinformation has been spread around the village, causing consternation. We thought when we agreed to Patrick Hoyte’s request for a village meeting, as a precursor to the EGM we are arranging for the shareholders, it would draw a line under the matter until the meeting. However, we feel we must respond to some of the statements that have been made.
This is the only statement we will be making until the public meeting.
Firstly, we will leave it to Paddy to give a more thorough and knowledgeable account of the shop’s history at the meeting. As many of you will know, Paddy was instrumental in setting up the shop
over 30 years ago and has been heavily involved ever since.
Regrettably, Andy advertised his business without first showing the advert to the Directors for approval. His ‘reasonable assumption’ that he could offer a 6 year lease was not so much the problem, rather the nature of the lease. The advert stated, “Initially, there is a 6 year lease with opportunity to extend. A transitional period is also available.” It should have stated, as per the lease clause 6.3, “this lease excludes the security of tenure which would otherwise be provided by section 24 – 28 of The Landlord and Tenant Act 1954.” In a nutshell this means there is no opportunity to extend the lease, and this very important difference has often proved problematic in the past when leases have been sent out, as happened with the latest applicant. In Andy’s words, “he would not have felt able to accept the terms of the new lease.”
The misleading advert was brought to the attention of the Directors by concerned villagers. We asked Andy to remove it, which he did, and replace it with an accurate one to be approved by us. We have made numerous requests for this to happen and to date, nearly 12 months later, Andy has still not produced a new advert to market his business and he has recently informed us that he has no intention of advertising again.
Andy said he wanted to restructure his business involving a partnership and that this had no impact on the lease. Andy is mistaken here. This breaks two clauses of his lease, as we stated at the time, 2.8 ” The Tenant shall trade from the demised premises as a Village Stores” and 2.10 ” not to assign, underlet or part with the possession of any part of the demised premises as distinct from the whole.”
The Post Office
Antionette Chitty, Property Projects Manager for the Post Office, has just advised the Directors that with Andy’s agreement, the Post Office contract can be transferred to Wootton Courtenay Villagers Stores Ltd. Two Directors would need to be vetted and receive training from the Post Office and this we are prepared to do. The Post Office could then retain its Community Status and the current income.
On May 5th, the Directors proposed obtaining an up-to-date, independent valuation of the business to enable us to consider the possibility of negotiating a financial agreement with Andy. He replied
the same day, “ In principle, I have no objection to a renewed market valuation of my business, but I suspect it will only have increased since the previous one of November 2020 as lifestyle choices continue to drive many towards beautiful villages like Wootton Courtenay.”
To date, EMF, a business valuation company, are still waiting for Andy to return their numerous calls to make an appointment to carry out the valuation. The Directors also sent an email, on May 25th, providing the company’s telephone and email details, asking Andy to please contact them to make an appointment.
No offer could be made without a current valuation and the agreement of the shareholders.
Regardless of any claims that have been made, the Directors’ only purpose is to see the village
shop continue as set up 32 years ago. There have been ups and downs along the way but rest assured the shop has, and will always, remain open for business.
June 1st 2022