PLAYING FIELD: Proof council has exceeded its powers

Regarding the ongoing saga of the Sir Halley Stewart Playing Field, I feel it is high time a few basic truths were made known.

Having researched the powers and responsibilities of trustees extensively on the internet, I have confirmed that South Holland District Council has far exceeded its powers as trustee.

I have a copy of the original trust document which is very specific regarding the wishes of the benefactor Sir Halley Stewart for use of the playing field.

The trust document is legally binding, the power of which does not diminish over time, even though it was originated in 1952. Listed below are a number of irrefutable facts:

1 – The only real power and responsibility the council has as trustee is to ensure that Sir Halley Stewart’s wishes are strictly adhered to. It has clearly failed in that regard.

2 – The council does not own any rights to the field, and therefore cannot legally sell it, exchange it, etc. The fact it entered into discussions with Corbo, who wanted to use the field to build a supermarket, was unlawful.

3 – The trust document states that the playing field is named The Sir Halley Stewart Playing Field and is provided solely for recreation by the inhabitants of Spalding ‘in perpetuity’. This phrase is key and literally means forever. The words “sport” and “football” do not appear anywhere in the document.

4 – Despite the fact Spalding United football Club has occupied the field for some considerable time, they do not have legal right of tenure.

Given these facts, the council has exceeded its powers as trustees, therefore contravening Sir Halley Stewart’s specific wishes, on a number of issues, thus:

A – Excluding access to the general public by means of locking the gates (except on football match days).

B – Allowing Spalding Football club sole rights to occupy the field on a permanent basis, to the exclusion of others.

C – The misuse of public funds on an annual basis purely for the benefit of the football club.

A recent article in the local press reported that the council stated it would be obliged to build a security fence at a cost of £10,000 to protect the football pitch should the Charities Commission dictate that the playing field must open to the general public, the cost to be borne by Spalding’s council tax payers via the special expenses budget.

This claim is without foundation, and would constitute further misuse of public funds, made far worse by the fact that the cost would come directly from Spalding taxpayers’ pockets, even though it is reasonable to assume that at least 50 per cent of Spalding’s population have not the slightest interest in the football club.

Spalding United FC is responsible for the security and wellbeing of its property and assets, so this claim by the council is a cynical method of attempting to alienate the general public against the idea of free access to the field.

I publicly challenge council leader Gary Porter to produce irrefutable evidence that I am wrong to make the allegations contained in this letter, and to do so preferably via the pages of this newspaper.

Finally, I would like to place on record that I am not known to Bill Johnson, the leader of the campaign to open the playing field to the general public, although I do admire his tenacity.

Gerry Hutchinson

Holbeach