Athletics club moves to Enfield after 'unfair' rent increase in Barnet

Athletics club president Steve Harris says he is disappointed at leaving Barnet but is looking forward to a future at the rugby club (pictured)

Athletics club president Steve Harris says he is disappointed at leaving Barnet but is looking forward to a future at the rugby club (pictured)

by Chris Hewett Updated on in News

An athletics club has moved to Enfield after being “unfairly” forced out of a neighbouring borough because of “grossly inflated” council rents.

Barnet and District Athletics Club vacated its headquarters in New Barnet this weekend after failing to come to an agreement with the local authority over a lease renewal.

The club, which has more than 300 members and has been based at the Victoria Road site for more than 30 years, claims the council wanted to increase the club’s rent by an “unaffordable” 25 per cent.

But Barnet Council says the increase was dependent on the outcome of an asset review due to be carried out later this year, and says it offered the club a 12-month price freeze.

This weekend the sports club moved to the borough of Enfield, taking up the offer of a ground share with Saracens Amateur Rugby Club at the Bramley Road Sports Ground in Southgate.

Athletics club president Steve Harris said: “We’re obviously disappointed to be leaving a ground we have been at for more than three decades and that we have spent money developing over the years.

“But at the same time we’re looking forward to the future at a club where we actually feel welcome.”

Since taking over the “fairly derelict” civil defence building in about 1980, the club has spent money building new changing rooms and keeping the facility up to date.

For the past 15 years though, the club has been forced to sub-let the building to Nightingale Nursery to subsidise the cost of the rent.

And despite being in discussions with the council for almost a year over the lease, which expired this month, the club’s committee decided it could not wait on the possibility of a proposed increase.

Mr Harris said: “The council’s attitude to supporting sports clubs is really poor. It is the worst I have come across from a local authority in decades as a coach across London.

“You get more of a chance as a young person trying to get in to sport in places like Hackney and Enfield. In Barnet it is all voluntary and there is no council support.

“We’re pleased in a way that it has worked out with Saracens, but there is anger and frustration at being kicked out of a venue that has been our home for the past 30 years.”

Barnet Council confirmed this morning that Nightingale Nursery has accepted a one-year rent-freeze, which could fluctuate pending the outcome of the asset review.

Barnet Council cabinet member Councillor Robert Rams said: “It’s disappointing that Barnet and District Athletics Club have chosen to leave their clubhouse in East Barnet.

“When the club’s lease was due to expire we agreed to freeze their current rent pending the outcome of our strategic community asset review, which is looking at new ways that community organisations can work together with the council. However the club made the decision to leave.

“We have traditionally held a very strong relationship with the club. They are currently involved in a number of ongoing sport projects in the borough including the London Youth Games, Mini London Marathon and summer holiday activities.

"We hope to continue working closely with them even though they have decided to leave the borough.”

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