Rent victory

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TENANTS and other users of Garstang’s old council offices/Discovery Centre are celebrating after winning their battle to stop a huge increase in rents.

Community groups met with Wyre Council’s chief executive Donna Hall, after a meeting was instigated at the request of Garstang Coun Tom Balmain.

The council has now proposed to look again at hiring arrangements, returning to the hourly rate system and limiting the increase of rent to around 10 per cent.

Long time users of the Wyre Council-owned building have been campaigning against proposed increases – some facing 100 per cent hikes – and introduction of new booking system since the start of the year.

Fears were raised that some groups may have been forced to move out of the centre if the new rents came into force on April 1.

Manager of Rainbow Pre-school Frances Taylor, Terry Underdown and Stuart Dobson of Garstang Theatre Group, and Kathy Pinon of KP Dance School attended Wyre’s civic centre in Poulton on Monday to voice concerns over the lack of communication with the council over the proposals and future of the centre.

But after discussions with Ms Hall, director of regeneration Garry Payne and estate manager Neil Willits, Garstang Theatre Group secretary Terry Underdown said they were upbeat with the outcome.

He said: “We didn’t know what to expect but we were hopeful they would see some reason – which is what we have got.

“They held their hands up and were full of apologies.

“We now wait to see it in writing.”

Letters of objection and fears over the rent rises were sent to officers in January, but up to a fortnight ago none of the parties concerned had received any response from the authority.

Following the request of Coun Balmain, the groups were contacted last week and invited to the meeting on Monday evening.

The proposals, which were agreed by all involved, mean the launch of a new lunch club at the pre-school will now go ahead at the end of the month as planned.

Frances Taylor said: “It was positive. We were able to put faces to names and now with a direct contact, hopefully, the lines of the communication will be much better in the future.”

A spokesperson for Wyre Council confirmed a revision of the charges had been agreed.

She added the council had also pledged to improve its communication with the groups.

Ms Hall said: We are always willing to talk to people with a particular concern and delighted when we can reach an agreement that everyone is happy with.”