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Borough Council to Allow Sale of Alcohol at Allen House Grounds Despite Covenants

Published on: 25 Jun, 2022
Updated on: 27 Jun, 2022

Allen House Grounds – Google Maps

By Emily Coady-Stemp

local democracy reporter

A council plans to allow the sale of alcohol in a site that was gifted to it despite rules on the land which state it should not be allowed.

Allen House Grounds was bequeathed to Guildford Borough Council in 1914, but has restrictive covenants on the land which prohibit the sale of alcohol.

The deeds also state that the land “can only be used for the purpose of public walks and pleasure grounds which benefit the inhabitants of the borough”.

The borough council had requests for events to take place in the gardens for summer 2020, made before the coronavirus pandemic, but because of the restrictions were unable to grant permission for any involving the sale of alcohol.

A meeting of the borough council’s executive shareholder and trustee committee on Thursday (June 23) approved the giving of consent to events where alcohol would be sold.

Councillors also agreed to take out indemnity insurance to cover the council in case any descendants of the original owner came forward to enforce the covenants in place on the land.

The council had so far been unable to contact any descendants to request removal of the covenant restricting the sale of alcohol.

The grounds, in Guildford town centre, have sports courts, picnic areas and a cafe run by Matrix Trust, a charity working with vulnerable young people in Guildford.

Cllr James Steel

Councillors James Steele (Liberal Democrat, Westborough) told the meeting: “Allen House grounds is a good location for community events, that are enjoyed by and would be of benefit to our residents.

“Such events also generate income to help maintain the parks to high standards for visitors and we believe that it will be in the best interests of the trust to permit the events serving alcohol, subject to all necessary licensing requirements being met.”

Meeting documents showed the cost of the indemnity insurance being around £200 per year, while officers hoped that permitting events serving alcohol at Allen House Grounds would bring in several thousand pounds.

The report said: “Permitting events in Allen House Grounds would also provide new fundraising opportunities for the Matrix Trust which operates a café in the park. This would support its work with vulnerable young people in the borough.”

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Responses to Borough Council to Allow Sale of Alcohol at Allen House Grounds Despite Covenants

  1. Ben Paton Reply

    June 25, 2022 at 1:36 pm

    Not just illegal. Immoral. A classic example of how politicians justify breaking the law when it suits them.

    The issue is not just that the sale of alcohol contravenes the purposes for which the land was given. It changes the character and culture of the location – for the worse. Why not explicitly allow cannabis to be smoked there as well?

    And Lib Dems complain about parties in Downing Street (many of which the Prime Minister did not attend) but countenance premeditated and deliberate contravention of a clear legal stipulation.


    Their get-out clause? An insurance policy. How low can you go?

    How better to show that you have no principles at all.

    Respect for the donor? Why not have a beer fest and dance on his or her grave at the same time?

    Is Guildford short of places to drink alcohol? Does it need GBC to license more pubs?

    GBC has no concept of the public interest ie the interest of the public as a whole. And it is happy to break a contract just because the donor is dead.

    Nobody living in the house? Fine, let’s break a few windows.

  2. Sara Tokunaga Reply

    June 26, 2022 at 9:23 am

    It would have been helpful to have been informed what kind of events people wanted to hold in the grounds.

    Surely there are plenty of events which could be held and do not include the sale of alcohol. The willingness of GBC to ignore any covenant when it suits does not auger well for the future of the borough.

  3. Stephen Galvin Reply

    June 26, 2022 at 10:47 am

    How about naming the original owner, or is Guildford Borough Council worried this would work against them.

  4. Pete Brayne Reply

    June 26, 2022 at 1:54 pm

    Can we be told what measures were undertaken to identify heirs of the land? It seems strange that none can be located.

  5. Dave Fielding Reply

    June 27, 2022 at 12:22 am

    What a very strange and sad decision, Guildford isn’t short of pubs or other venues that sell alcohol. The council should pause this and question why it has to spend money to indemnify itself. The quick answer is, they know it’s a bad decision.

  6. Anthony Mallard Reply

    June 27, 2022 at 8:20 am

    If TV’s Heir Hunters can find distant relatives of intestate individuals and Who Do You Think You Are can trace family members – in one case back to Edward III, then I am confident that if any heirs to the original donor exist, they can be found.

    As has been remarked, tell us who the donor and initiator of the covenant was and let a genealogist have a stab at resolving this issue correctly. Or is it local government following the example of moral turpitude currently being exhibited by our national one.

  7. Jim Allen Reply

    June 27, 2022 at 8:29 am

    The same could be said for the 1890s covenant on the old sewage treatment works. Lord Onslow gave the land for use as a sewage works not for housing.

    This covenant also seems missing from the paperwork for Wey Side Village.

  8. Barry Williams Reply

    June 27, 2022 at 8:59 am

    Oh what righteous indignation, pent-up anger and pomposity from correspondents who appear to think the Allen House site /Hideaway Cafe will become a hotbed of debauchery hosted by Bacchus.

    They should look a little deeper. The thinking behind this is to help boost the use of the site for the benefit of the charity currently leasing it – one that helps disadvantaged and local kids.

    As to who the users may be – well think of arts societies, civic groups, residents associations, educational groups, public interest groups etc, ie local people whose use of the venue will also support a good cause.

    Give the council some credit for a change.

    • Ben Paton Reply

      June 28, 2022 at 12:09 pm

      “Give the Council some credit.” What for?

      Did it donate the land? No

      Does it police the land? No (Surrey Police are supposed to do that.)

      Does it operate the cafe? No

      Let’s do some “deep thinking”. Why do “kids” need access to a pub or to alcohol? Especially “disadvantaged kids”.

      Isn’t there a legal age below which drinking is prohibited? So how does making alcohol available on a site, used for baseball etc, help anyone?

      Would any sensible parent let GBC have custody of its children? No.

  9. Steve Grove Reply

    June 27, 2022 at 11:22 am

    Typical of our local “politicians” who have no interest in the people of this borough – seem keen to say let’s make even more money by hiring out Allen House Grounds for more functions and at the same time receiving fees for the alcohol licences.

    Making money seems to be the only concept our “ruling” politicians can see, and never mind what the people think or want.

    Perhaps they should remember that the local elections come next May, when the people can have their say.

  10. Jackie Kay Reply

    June 27, 2022 at 12:19 pm

    If this relates to the Hideaway cafe run by Matrix, as far as I am aware the cafe closes at 3pm. Apart from the legality of overriding a covenant, would an alcohol license bring in any more business? It seems unlikely.

  11. Bernard Quoroll Reply

    June 27, 2022 at 4:48 pm

    The example has been set. When national governments decide that it is acceptable to pick and choose whether to stand by legally binding obligations, why should local councils not choose to do the same?

    There is not even some compelling public purpose or doctrine of necessity in play here. Just another grubby failure of integrity. The borough’s Victorian forefathers who generously endowed so much public land for the benefit of Guildford’s citizens in the past must be turning in their graves.

  12. Sue Hackman Reply

    July 2, 2022 at 3:39 pm

    If a licence for the sale of alcohol is granted for Allen House grounds, I do hope the council will think better of closing the toilets there.

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