Following Barnet FC’s decision to vacate its long standing home at Underhill and relocate its first team to The Hive (formerly known as Prince Edward Playing Fields, PEPF), representatives of Wealdstone FC have been seeking to discuss with Barnet how future joint arrangements and a possible ground share may work.
Under the terms of Barnet’s lease at The Hive, Harrow Council has always insisted on including a provision that Wealdstone has a right to play at the stadium once building is complete. Indeed, one of Barnet’s “three objectives” in their own proposal to Harrow Council was “To provide a permanent home ground for Wealdstone FC” and formed a central role in the granting of both planning permission and lease.
This core provision, within the terms of the lease, was publicly made clear at Harrow Council’s cabinet meeting on 19 July 2012. A report to that cabinet meeting prepared by council officers, stated: ‘The lease provides for Wealdstone Football Club, First Team, to play matches at PEPF, on reasonable commercial terms. The request by Barnet Football Club, if approved, will not result in any variation to this lease clause.’
This matter was raised at questions during the meeting. Councillor Keith Ferry, former Portfolio Holder Planning and Regeneration, made it extremely clear that Wealdstone FC continue to have the right to play at the new stadium and that terms would need to be agreed with Barnet FC. Cllr. Ferry confirmed this agreement in subsequent meetings with the Chairman and other representatives of Wealdstone.
Correctly and understandably, Wealdstone wish to discuss how it may exercise its rights at The Hive once the new stadium is completed. To date, however, Wealdstone’s attempts at discussing possible terms and arrangements have been frustrated by Barnet’s Chairman, Tony Kleanthous. This leaves Wealdstone extremely concerned as to its position and it is now forced to consider further action.
Wealdstone may yet become homeless again when its own current lease expires at The Vale, Ruislip, in 2018. Therefore, the Club is reviewing all possible future options to protect its own position and well being and the chance to play at the PEPF development, into which it poured so much time, effort and money, is foremost amongst them.
Wealdstone Chairman, Howard Krais, said: ‘We have no desire to enter into dispute with Barnet over this matter. However, we are asking some very straightforward questions and are getting no constructive answers.”
Krais continued “We have a right to play at the new stadium and we need to understand clearly whether this could be a viable option or not. We have talked on and off with Barnet over several years, since our own plans at PEPF did not come to full fruition through no fault of our own and after considerable investment in the site. However, with Barnet’s plans to move forward and build the stadium we now need to bring these discussions to a conclusion.”
He added: ‘We want to know what reasonable commercial terms will be offered to us for playing at the Hive and whether it will be sustainable for us to do so. With Harrow Council having made that a provision of the lease, it is surprising that we cannot get any clear response from Barnet.”