December 5 2013 Latest news:
Wednesday, October 9, 2013
A businessman’s financial offer to save the Royal British Legion club in Norwich from closure has “amazingly” been turned down by bosses at the legion’s HQ in London.
As reported, bosses want to sell off the Norwich headquarters in Aylsham Road and close its thriving club, the Jubilee Hall.
They believe that keeping the premises “involves an unacceptable level of risk to charitable funds”.
Norwich businessman Martin Wyatt wrote to the legion’s HQ offering to sponsor the hall to keep it open and guarantee it against loss, but in a reply received this week, he said his offer had “amazingly” been declined.
He said: “It is now apparent that the RBL is adamant that Jubilee Hall should close irrespective of local support, use and financial viability so that it can be sold for the highest commercial price.”
Mr Wyatt, who owns the Head in the Clouds and Feet on the Ground shops in Pottergate, has vowed to continue the fight to save the club.
And he has written another letter to the legion’s HQ, criticising its policy of closing branch halls. He said in the last few years at least nine RBL branch halls have been closed across the country, pending sale.
He added: “And when local branches do come under financial difficulty, the reaction of head office is to intensify the stress by demanding fresh business plans, budgets and the like, rather than helping the branch revive by practical means.
“Many people have given their life’s energy to the RBL and its local communities. But now the property housing these branches are being liquidated and members no longer have a home.”
Hugh Phillips, the legion’s head of clubs and trusts, said in the letter to My Wyatt declining his offer, that the trading operations of the hall would involve too much risk to the charity, and it would be difficult to sustain it in the longer term. The letter goes on to say that Mr Wyatt’s generous offer would not provide a secure future for the use of the property as proposed by the branch in its business plan.
Earlier this week, Norwich North MP Chloe Smith said she was keeping up the pressure to save the club and will meet the legion’s director general this month as she seeks to find a local, common sense solution to the proposed sale of the site.
She has also pledged to attend a public meeting at the site at 7pm on Thursday, October 17 to discuss the future of the branch, which is due to close on January 1.