Sunday 04th December 2022,
North Yorks Enquirer

Benchmark Releases Press Statement

Benchmark Releases Press Statement

Readers may be interested to review the following Press Statement from Benchmark Leisure Ltd, released this morning, Sunday 13th November 2022.

For further information,  please contact the Chief Executive and Head of Paid Service (formerly, s.151 Officer and Finance Director) of Scarborough Borough Council, Mr Nick EDWARDS, via the following email address:

Best be quick!

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PRESS STATEMENT

Benchmark Leisure Limited, the North Bay developer, and its parent company Abbey Commercial Investments have settled the legal proceedings brought by Scarborough Borough Council in respect of rent arrears for the Alpamare Waterpark. The dispute arose over the treatment of rent payments around the COVID period.

During this time, Benchmark received no rent from the operator, having not only agreed with Alpamare to defer all amounts owed but also subsidised the operation and maintenance of the Waterpark to the tune of over £300,000. This was to ensure that the facilities were continuously improved and maintained so that they could re-open as soon as the pandemic allowed, and importantly not lay-off any staff. The Council had originally agreed that rent payments due to it under Benchmark’s headlease would be suspended during COVID, as the Council had done with some of its other tenants – like the Travelodge in the town centre – but then changed its mind and took Benchmark’s  parent company to court for non-payment.

The claim by Scarborough Borough Council has been settled and withdrawn following a payment to the Council. All this money and other rent payments to the Council in respect of the Waterpark, go into repaying the loan that the Council provided to fund part of the Waterpark’s construction.

This loan has courted controversy since it was advanced in October 2015, after the Council changed its mind about taking a headlease, which was required to enable the Waterpark’s construction to be funded externally. Following this u-turn, the only way the Waterpark project was viable was for it to be delivered on the following provisos:

  1. Benchmark would be able to recover their £5m+ portion of the construction costs cost from future developments at North Bay.
  2. The £8.9m loan from the Council would be a low interest rate loan, on the same or better terms that Benchmark would have got from external funders under the original headlease structure.
  3. Benchmark would be entitled to take full ownership of the Waterpark and the additional parking at Burniston road once it paid off the loan in full in the next 30 years.

Benchmark proceeded  on this basis, and spent £6,967,432 of its own money delivering the Waterpark and ‘state of the art’ spa. As at today, Benchmark has repaid a total of £3,559,774 to Scarborough Borough Council in respect of the £9m loan, not to mention all the profit made from the development of the North Bay which has been placed into a designated account managed by the Council. This amount, known as the Balance Sum, has not been paid to Benchmark but is being held to pay off the Waterpark loan as and when Benchmark exercises its option to acquire it.

In September 2020, Benchmark expressed its intention to exercise this option and repay the loan in full early, but this has been stalled by a significant disagreement between Benchmark and the Council over the amount of money in the designated Balance Sum account. This matter should have been resolved by a referral to an independent accountant, but Scarborough Borough Council has refused to comply with this requirement for unexplained reasons. However once  the Council finally agree to proceed with the determination of the Balance Sum this  will, in the end, enable Benchmark to repay the remainder of the Waterpark loan back to the Council and acquire the Waterpark, to ensure its continued operation, investment and improvement.

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