Battle lines drawn over rocketing rent

Battle lines have been drawn as Breckland Council refuses to back down on a massive rent rise threatening the future of Dereham band.

Battle lines have been drawn as Breckland Council refuses to back down on a massive rent rise threatening the future of Dereham band.

Now Dereham town council is also throwing its support behind the band and, during a town council meeting on Tuesday night, mayor John Gretton hit out at the move to increase the rent from £1 to £1,700 plus VAT.

He said: “We don't want to roll over and have our tummies tickled by Breckland at the first opportunity.

“We want to put up a fight and let them know what we think. I've had a rather frank discussion with Breckland and I'm disappointed at the way it turned out.”

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The band has entertained generations of people and each year chooses a local good cause and fundraises for it by playing, as well as leading Battle of Britain and Remembrance Parades.

For the last 25 years the band has rented the same piece of land on Rash's Green for a peppercorn sum and as they own and maintain the building they rehearse in and the council faces no financial liability in maintaining or servicing the premises.

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Finding another use for the plot would be a struggle as the land has been rendered commercially difficult by a gas main which, coupled with its no build zone, renders the plot virtually useless for building and commercial purposes.

The contract drawn up in 1989 states a rent review was due in 2000, but the council decided not to up the amount until the second review in 2007 where the council took advice from a district valuer on the current market rate for the land.

Speaking at the town council meeting, chief executive of Breckland Council Trevor Holden said: “There is no question over the valuable service the band provides.

“I'm keen that we fix the root of the problem. There is no point giving a large amount of money away only for the same problem to appear later. We can help with grants and match funding.

“But if we use this as the exception to the rule then we will have every market town wanting support for their exception to the rule.”

Dereham Band chairman John Moulton said: “We don't have any regular source of income.

“We cover our running costs by being hired for events.

“With public finance the way it is, those events are becoming less and less frequent. We work hard to keep afloat now.

“We simply cannot meet the rent rise.”

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