The bat­tle isn’t yet over for RAF club

Harefield Gazette - - NEWS -

A LAST ditch at­tempt is be­ing made to save an RAF club next to the base where the Bat­tle of Bri­tain was once co­or­di­nated.

In the 100th an­niver­sary year of the RAF, the Bat­tle of Bri­tain Club in Uxbridge will close when its lease is handed back to the Min­istry of De­fence (MOD) in or­der to clear the club’s out­stand­ing debts.

Iron­i­cally the date for the han­dover is July 9 – the day be­fore the an­niver­sary of the be­gin­ning of the his­toric air bat­tle - on July 10 1940.

The club, which con­sists of two pre­fab­ri­cated Nis­sen huts, has been open for 71 years and lies near to the Bat­tle of Bri­tain bunker at RAF Uxbridge from where the epic bat­tle was mar­shalled.

Alan Wright, who is chair­man of the club, is now des­per­ately search­ing for a last-minute spon­sor or in­vestors who can plough some cash in to save the iconic club, and mem­bers have started a petition call­ing on the RAF As­so­ci­a­tion – which holds the lease – to give the club one more chance.

Mr Wright said: “It is with a heavy heart and great sad­ness that I have to let ev­ery­one know of the great pos­si­bil­ity that the Bat­tle of Bri­tain Club Uxbridge may have to close its doors for the fi­nal time on the July 9 2018.

“The Royal Air Force As­so­ci­a­tion head­quar­ters in Le­ices­ter has come to the con­clu­sion that this his­toric club is no longer vi­able due to in­sur­mount­able debts and the di­lap­i­dated con­di­tion of the build­ing, de­spite fi­nally start­ing to see a slight profit, but seem­ingly all too late.”

It is un­der­stood the club had not been billed for its rent for 16 years and so had not paid. The MOD billed the club ear­lier this year for the out­stand­ing £160,000 but can only claim £60,000 as it can only claim debts go­ing back six years.

Mr Wright says that he thinks faults lie on both sides for al­low­ing the debts to build up. He says past club com­mit­tees lacked the “guid­ance” to be able to make progress in pay­ing off cred­i­tors.

He adds that most of the debts are now clear apart from the out­stand­ing amount on the lease which the club had hoped RAFA would be will­ing to rene­go­ti­ate.

But RAFA says hand­ing the lease back to the MOD is the “only vi­able so­lu­tion”.

Ailsa Gough, area di­rec­tor south east and east­ern at RAFA, said: “The Bat­tle of Bri­tain Club is run on be­half of the club com­mit­tee by a man­age­ment com­pany. 2017 fi­nan­cial re­ports, pre­pared by that com­pany, clearly show sig­nif­i­cant longterm debts and an op­er­at­ing loss for the year. These fi­nan­cial dif­fi­cul­ties mean that on­go­ing costs, in­clud­ing those nec­es­sary to bring the premises up to ap­pro­pri­ate stan­dards, to pay monthly rent and to clear debts can­not be cov­ered by the club.

“The only vi­able course of ac­tion is for the sur­ren­der of the lease to the land­lord and the man­age­ment com­pany has been given no­tice.”

She added: “We are in reg­u­lar contact with our Uxbridge branch and are sup­port­ing them to find al­ter­na­tive premises for their meet­ings, so they can con­tinue to sup­port mem­bers of the RAF fam­ily in their area.” Mr Wright paid trib­ute to the club’s man­age­ment com­pany, Ari­zona, and the “con­tin­ued sup­port from its di­rec­tors” which he says has al­lowed the club to keep go­ing up to now.

He is also ap­peal­ing for vis­i­tors to the newly re-eopened Bat­tle of Bri­tain bunker visi­tor attraction at the for­mer neigh­bour­ing RAF Uxbridge site, to visit the club to so­cialise and help boost its rev­enue.

He said: “I ap­peal for the sup­port of the mem­bers, the lo­cal com­mu­nity and wider for this fight in the hope we can save the club and keep this vi­tal part of lo­cal his­tory and a fa­cil­ity that is pop­u­lar and vi­tal to the lo­cal com­mu­nity go­ing for many more years.”

“We wel­come any as­sis­tance or sup­port from the lo­cal coun­cil, res­i­dents and trades peo­ple, to save this iconic club and much needed com­mu­nity as­set.

The Bat­tle of Bri­tain Club was founded on the present site in early 1947 and of­fi­cially opened its doors on Septem­ber 8 1951.

The Nis­sen huts, which orig­i­nally formed part of a US Air Force field Hospi­tal in Prest­wick, Scot­land, from where they were trans­ported to Uxbridge.

The huts are home to the RAFA Uxbridge branch, and the Bat­tle of Bri­tain Club. The club is used by a num­ber of com­mu­nity groups.

The club and branch have a mem­ber­ship of ap­prox­i­mately 521, some of whom are RAF veter­ans.

You can sign the petition to keep the club open at www.change.org.

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