I see that you have circulated an email to your sections in order to gauge opinion about the proposed new site. In the interests of “fairness” perhaps you would also like to circulate my email which perhaps sheds light on the other side of the story ? Taking your points one at a time:
1: So called commercialization is somewhat over hyped. Actually we presently sell until we are blue in the face. We sell membership, raffle tickets to win a bike….(but draw the line at actually selling some one a bike), library services (dating certs etc) used library books (all you can carry), retails spares (all you can carry), show tickets, insurance services, regalia, information, training day events..the concept of being a volunteer……..the list goes on. We are constantly asked by members who are getting on age wise to help sell their machines….many of whom are not computer literate….some are often too ill to do so them selves etc and many of these have been life long members of the club. At a time when perhaps their need is greatest….or indeed perhaps their family are left with the problem…….the clubs current stance is to refuse to help and to turn our backs on them. That is not part of my ethos…..and virtually everybody in that committee has on an individual basis stepped into the breach numerous time to help people out……including yourself Alistair…….motivated simply by the good will and generous nature that abounds in this club. I see no issue with this club being more helpful in these situations, and believe that this is a growing problem, not a shrinking one. The average age in the club is 68 and rising…..so ask yourself….how many members will require our assistance in the next 20 years?. Are you seriously asking me not to gear up to help perhaps ? This club has numerous avenues and commercial contacts that would make this easier for us to handle……and to ensure a good and fair return is passed back to the member or family. Until you actually see this sort of thing in action….and the good that it can do…..I would ask you to keep an open mind.
2: Peter Miller has cited commercialization as his reason to leave, actually….as you well know……he felt he could not serve on a board where he was not in charge or control. That was in fact his main reason for leaving which he said to us all verbally at the last meeting he attended. Commercialization…..as you call it…..is merely the polite excuse given. He was asked to stay by myself as you know, and you made Stirling efforts to convince him yourself…to no avail…so it was not for the want of trying on our part.
3: Regarding a possible move from Allen House. This is no surprise to those close to HQ and has been discussed for years. Numerous present and past directors have written reports on the business who have come to the same conclusion constantly that a move to a larger premises would be advantageous should the opportunity arise, including Peter Miller, Rodney Hann (the current president), myself and even Brian Southam as early as 14 years ago. However, previous Chairman have arguably dodged the challenge…..but in fairness…have perhaps lacked the opportunity as it requires reasonable funding to achieve.
4: The reasons why we would want to move from Allen House are multiple, from limited / no parking, no safe loading area, no disabled facilities, no staff canteen area, cramped conditions which are preventing us from growing, a small garage where only limited work can be undertaken, the floors were not re-inforced and so the weight on the floors upstairs is concerning and restrictive, no area for visitors, we can not even hold all the bikes we presently own….hence the idea of finding long term homes for them with members, impractical rooms in the annexe, the small space provided for retail dictates what we sell to a degree and so the list goes on. However, it might be more positive to simply suggest that we have out-grown Allen House as we have been there for 36 years and we have a growing business ! A recent library report commented on the cramped conditions, and were we to be offered a new collection today of any volume…..we would be turning it away as we simply do not have space to accommodate it. Anybody wishing to discuss these issues merely need to ring the acting office manager Mr Ian Botham and he will gladly tell you his problems all day long.
5: The new building we have seen would not bankrupt the club by any means. Actually the last valuation given by the estate agent to sell Allen House was in the £350 to £ 400 k region, and given that this is £ 450 K + costs to renovate…….and that we are receiving just shy of £ 385 K as a legacy in the next few weeks…. it might be that we could move……make alterations….and still spend less than half the money we have just been left !. Or if we chose to keep Allen house…a new stream of valuable income could be obtained….the agents estimate is £ 35 to £ 38 k per annum. Leaving that legacy in the bank will more likely mean that it will be gobbled up within a few short years…..which has been the case with many previous legacies left to the VMCC. I do not want to repeat that same mistake.
6: The new place sits on 1.3 acres, has a large car park, nice gardens, is all on one level, offers 9000 sq feet internally, has full disabled facilities, has a proper loading bay into decent storage areas, has a commercial kitchen and decent size dinning room, has a decent size reception area, has very commodious offices and has a large area in one end that would be large enough to perhaps hold our AGMs in future (which immediately saves us £ 4K per annum hiring Gaydon). It is very light and airy….is of modern steel frame construction…(meaning that many of the internal walls are not load bearing and would therefore be relatively easy to swap about) and has clearly been up to a high spec in recent times……with all the latest health and safety legislation (because this was….after all…a publicly owned building catering for public needs). For those of us who actually visited the site….it was obvious that we might need to spend a lot of money on another building merely to bring it up to the spec this place already offers. The building is in the area of town where the council have concentrated their civic leisure facilities..as it is opposite a Marina….and a few hundred yards up the road is the towns sports centre and playing fields. The brochure specifies none domestic use and bizarrely states that the council retain the right not to take the highest bid……an unusual aspect which leads us to speculate that they do not want further housing on the site. One element is that the two roads this abuts too both become somewhat choked at rush hour. Perhaps they have concerns about access for residents….or perhaps they prefer to attract a business that will provide further employment in the area…….we do not actually know what their motivation here is. However….what better than a growing library and visitor centre for mature motorcyclists ?. By chance the council offices are only a few doors away from our current location, so the council know that we have been a quiet and respectable business in their town for the last 36 years.
7: Our business could flourish at the new site. I have a member who will leave us his motorcycle collection on the condition we have somewhere to display it. Currently we have no show area. I have a none member who will leave us various machine tools like lathes and so on….if they are to be used for training etc. Currently we have no workshops or training area. I have other club chairmen who have expressed interest in sharing or renting space from us as they would perhaps like us to store their archives and collectables or even machines. We currently do not have space for our own machines let alone others…..yet these could form part of an interesting display at no cost to us. I have tourism Companies who would want to partner with us to bring us tourists to see our site…..if we had parking and something to view…..we presently have neither. I have manufacturers who would supply us on a sale or return basis with all sorts of stock…..had we a shop area……currently we have no area for visitors to even come and look at what we have for sale. Make no mistake………having a small and restrictive office building is impeding this business’s growth. Growth that is largely risk free and would provide new income streams that would not negatively affect the members in any way what so ever.
8: Much has been made of a business case being required to move. Well one does exist the threads of which are above. But I would suggest that not only do we need a very good reason to move….we almost need a stronger reason not to take this opportunity up which could convert the fortunes of this club. Make no mistake……for every member asking me why we want to move….I will have another member just as keenly asking me why I failed to grab such an opportunity should we turn it away. None of the critics so far have suggested a viable alternative. Yes we could waste perhaps £ 30 t0 £ 40 K remodelling Allen house, but that would merely mask the problem for a short time….and would not resolve…no parking…loading…disabled facilities and so on. Where as a new larger site….would allow the club the room to grow and see us comfortable for the next ten to twenty years perhaps.
9: Alistair has told you that the answer lies with the sections. Well, whilst I largely agree…….I can see that it is only one answer and that the club is a large and complicated thing that has more than one need to address. Whilst you may ask….how will I benefit at this distance ?. I would say that by allowing the HQ to grow…..you will allow new streams of income to develop that will help to protect you from future price rises. You will see the additional services being offered and be encouraged to visit should you wish. It will mean that HQ is in a better position to support branches in the future.
10: Frankly, the reasons go on. When you appointed us as directors and tasked us with acting on your behalf and in your best interest….I believe you gave us a mandate at that time to do just that. I would ask you to trust that that is what we are doing now. This is not a one man decision….but the decision of a committee of volunteers…..all of whom I took to view the site on the day. please therefore take the time to ring any of my directors or area reps who visited the site to get an independent view of what they saw before you damn this proposal out of hand. I visited my section last night who merely asked the usual questions you would when looking at property……like would we have it professionally surveyed and so forth…..but no undue concern was shown……no anger or fear……..just normal, straight forward questions you would get when entering this sort of transaction. No separate vote from the members was sort when we purchased Allen house….or when we rented the annexe…or when we spent £ 75 K doing it up…..or when we spent £ 140 K buying it earlier this year………and that is only 1000 square feet…….but because a few people wish to stop this progress…..they are now seeking to convince you that it is suddenly required….when those self same people did not call for this when the previous transactions were undertaken.
I hope you have found some of the above informative and re-assuring. There is lots more to say but I fear you would be bored listening to it all. I am not putting this clubs money at risk….I am proposing we swap cash that is doing nothing for a very useful asset that is probably worth more than it is for sale for. Only a few hundred yards away further up the road is a brown field site which is three acres…..does not have easy access and would require us to then put a building up…..and this has a price of half a million an acre. So…..actually….the site we have seen is being sold off cheap by the council and already has expressions of interest in it. The asbestos report mentioned has an estimated clear up bill of £ 1,250….as there is asbestos lagging on a few of the pipes in the place……hardly a deal breaker in my view.
I felt I should give you this additional information in the interests of you having a balanced debate.