Artist Rifles Clubhouse – Press Reports

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National Rifle Association

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Dear fellow member of the NRA,

Artist Rifles Clubhouse – Press Reports

You may be aware of recent articles published in the National Press regarding the contentious lease renewal of the Artist Rifles Clubhouse at Bisley Camp. I would like to correct a number of inaccuracies they contain.

The Artists Rifle Club gave up their tenancy of the clubhouse in 1967 and the current tenant is an individual running a private club for 150 members, not the Artists Rifle Club, the Artists Rifle Association, nor the SAS Regimental Association (none of whom are involved in the lease).

This long running dispute (the original lease came to an end in December 2011) centred upon two main areas of contention – who owned the buildings, and whether rent should be charged for them. Our tenant, who is an individual (not a club, charity or military organisation), claimed he owned the building and should only pay a ground rent. After taking legal advice, the NRA asserted that the building was owned by the landlord and that rent was payable for the land and buildings.  This dispute was finally settled by arbitration in December 2015 that found in favour of the NRA on both counts. The tenant refused to accept this decision; further lengthy negotiations ensued and terms for a new lease (except rent) were finally agreed in February 2017.

A further issue of contention then arose where the tenant asserted that approx. £400k of work that he claimed to have spent on the building should be assessed as improvements when setting the rent. The NRA again took legal advice, and this matter was also referred to arbitration. Contrary to the expectations of our legal advisors, the Arbitrator found in the tenant’s favour.  We have accepted this decision and the lease agreed in February 2017 is now ready for signing at an annual rent of £4,000 per annum. The tenant is still attempting to change some of the agreed terms which is unfortunate.

NRA Trustees cannot ignore their duty to follow Charity and Property law and this will sometimes require us, as a last resort, to engage in legal proceedings where it is in the interests of the Charity to do so. The result in the case of the Artists Rifles Clubhouse has been confirmation that the NRA unequivocally owns a building worth several times what it has cost to establish that fact. The apparent modesty of the rent increase to £4,000 is misleading as it takes into consideration the £400k which the tenant spent on the building.

I can confirm that in the period January 2014 to October 2018 the NRA spent £299,394 on legal advice associated with sixty one individual properties on Bisley Camp, including the renewal / grant of fifty three leases. The claims made in the press of what has been spent on the dispute with the Artists Rifles Clubhouse are therefore grossly exaggerated. Our expenditure on legal fees in this case should be assessed against securing the freehold interest of buildings that have benefitted from £400k of improvements.

The Charity Commission’s published policy is not to become involved in landlord-tenant disputes, and they have not done so here, as was erroneously reported in one newspaper.

If you have any questions on this issue, please contact the Secretary General who can refer them to me as required.

May I take this opportunity to wish you a Merry Xmas and a prosperous New Year. 2019 marks the 150th Imperial Meeting, and we are planning a celebration accordingly. I hope to see you there and wish you good shooting in the meantime.

Best Regards

 

John Webster
Chairman

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