Fundraising Appeal: Progress Report

Camden Council have made a generous offer to sell us a 25-year lease on Primrose Hill Community Association’s premises, but for this we need to raise £250,000 by Christmas!

For many years a rent of £22,000 pa was charged on the property. Until local government funding was severely cut, this charge was paid by the Council. But as of 1 January 2019 the full £22,000 pa would become payable by the Association, after which there would be rent reviews every five years. The current commercial rental value of the property is nearer £60,000 pa so the annual rent would probably have increased steeply. Even with the special discount granted to charities for properties owned by the Council, the rental at the first review was likely to be £40,000 pa.

it will be a mixture of all levels of contributions, and each donation will be very gratefully received.

So a long lease at a peppercorn rent is a wonderful way to protect the next 25 years of the Community Association’s work. We make earnings from subletting to our many regular tenants such as Ready Steady Go, trapeze classes, etc. These cover all our operating costs and subsidise our activities such as Rhyme Time, Open House and the Lunch Club, not to mention On The Hill magazine.

What is needed to reach our target is: 250 people to give £1,000; or 500 to give £500; or 2,500 to give £100 each. Of course, it will be a mixture of all levels of contributions, and each donation will be very gratefully received. In fact, it is encouraging to report that £20,822 was donated in the first seven days. To keep everyone informed of progress, banners will be put up in the area announcing the total raised so far.

Our legal crusader

If you are a long-term resident of Primrose Hill, you might have read a profile of Francis Katz in On The Hill back in January 2017. The article described his many talents, as an artist and also a lawyer. We now have reason to sing his praises again, for his recent work on extending the lease of Primrose Hill Community Association’s premises.

legal adviser, Francis Katz, gave us all the hours of professional advice for free, pro bono publico, as he did when the community took over the Library

Our recent purchase of a 25-year lease for the Community Centre was first proposed five years ago. Negotiating a long lease on behalf of an organisation with a shifting membership requires special care. In this case there were other complicating factors. The severe financial cuts imposed on councils meant that the Camden officers handling the case frequently changed roles. The Centre is part of the Piano Factory and arrangements had to be made for shared services. In addition, both Camden and the Association wanted a clear-cut agreement on the state of the building so that neither side loses out when the property is handed back in 25 years. This also explains why there was a long delay while repairs to the building were carried out under the scrutiny of both parties’ surveyors.

It is estimated that over 100 hours of expert legal advice were required by the Association to complete the contract. Estimated? Well estimated because our legal adviser, Francis Katz, gave us all the hours of professional advice for free, pro bono publico, as he did when the community took over the Library. There was one occasion when he worked the entire weekend on the challenges of the Community Centre contract, amending drafts to protect our interests. Had this been on a commercial basis, it would have been at great financial cost. Francis, once a member of the Management Committee, has always been a generous supporter of Primrose Hill activities. Having had to give up his office in Utopia Village, he now runs his practice, Chalcots, from Belsize Gardens.

Very many thanks from all of us. We are so lucky to have you, Francis.

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