Private company Lynx Sports Management brought in to run Woodside Park pavilion in Lymington
THE private company which runs Lymington’s sea water baths has been brought in to run the town’s Woodside Park pavilion and will be installing a community cafe.
Lynx Sports Management, helmed by businessman Hugo Ambrose, was awarded a five-year licence for the premises by Lymington and Pennington Town Council.
He will not be charged a penny for the 2022/23 financial year – which town councillors have defended and said would give the business the best chance of success.
Under the licence, community groups can hire the facility at a cost of £15 an hour, with profit being split 50/50 between Lynx and the council.
A cafe will be installed, to be officially opened on 1st April.
The changing facilities will be kept separate to the operations of the clubhouse, and available to sports clubs when hiring pitches via the council.
Ratifying the move at the council’s latest amenities committee meeting, members noted typical uses might include toddler playgroups, dance or exercise classes, children’s birthday parties, art classes or reading groups.
However, concerns were raised by Cllr Jack Davies that locals would lose out through transferring the running of a public building to a private company.
But town clerk Louise Young said Lynx was a sports-minded organisation keen to work with local clubs, and would charge them a knock-down fee of £12 an hour to use the hall.
Lynx was also footing the bill for the hall and cafe utilities, she said, and any proposals it had over new decorations would have to be debated by the council before they could be taken forward.
Cllr Barry Dunning said the council was “very, very fortunate” to have Lynx onboard, adding: “It’s down to us to make Lynx a success of it – I hope they make a lot of money.”
The meeting heard Lynx was the only company that made a tender offer to take on the building; others that had expressed an interest had later deemed it “not commercially viable” and withdrew.
Amenities committee chairman, Cllr Simon Smith, said: “The café will provide much-needed refreshments for the many sporting clubs as well as the wider community who enjoy the park for a variety of leisure purposes.
“We hope the café becomes a destination rather than an ancillary venue; a true community asset.”
As reported in the A&T, the building previously cost the taxpayer £3,337 after the unexplained collapse of the Lymington Sports Association – which was appointed by the council to run it.
It later had to be redecorated for further use – which further hit taxpayers in the pocket.
Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Davies said he opposed the deal.
“A cafe is a nice idea but the way his deal has been negotiated takes power away from the sports club and hands it to a private company to profit from a community asset,” he said.
“In these situations it is vital the council listen to both sports clubs and residents. I don’t think they’ve done that sufficiently.”
The agreement will be reviewed by the council later this year, and if Lynx wants to remain at the site an annual rent charge will be introduced from the 2023/24 financial year.