BASINGSTOKE’S ice rink could be destroyed in just six months time after it was revealed that the owner of the building is able to apply to change its use.

Standard Securities, who own the ice rink’s building, are able to make the application from as early as April 2021, it was revealed at a council meeting.

The clock is ticking for the much-needed repairs to the facilities after Sally Cashman, chair of the Ice Rink Users’ Forum, revealed that talks had already begun between Standard Securities and Planet Ice, who operate the rink, to close the rink by next summer if a solution has not been found to the long-running problems.

One councillor claimed that the authority was “asleep at the wheel”, whilst another claimed it was time for a “change in attitude” to help rescue the stricken facility.

It comes just days after The Gazette reported how Winter Olympian Graham Bell and his professional skating partner Yebi Mok were using the Basingstoke Arena as a training base for TV show Dancing on Ice.

At a meeting of the borough council’s Community Environment Partnership (CEP) committee on Wednesday, October 21, guest speaker Sally Cashman said: “Are this committee aware that there is a clause in the lease with Standard Securities that allows them to seek a change of use on the ice rink building from April 2021. Are they also aware that there have already been discussion between Planet Ice and Standard securities about turning off the plant and closing the rink before the summer of 2021 if a solution cannot be found for repairing it? What power does this committee or Basingstoke and Deane Borough have to stop this happening?”

Several members, including committee chair Cllr Paul Gaskell, confirmed they had not been aware of this, and expressed their frustration at the lack of attendance of cabinet member for regeneration and property, Cllr John Izett.

Cllr Jack Cousens said: “Why is the portfolio holder not here answering questions? He said that he was going to do everything he could to help keep the ice rink here in Basingstoke. He’s not graced us with his presence here tonight which I think screams volumes, not only to us as a committee but also to the ice rink users.”

“Likewise, I think it's a little bit remiss that the portfolio holder has not advised the wider committee that this clause was in place and, in essence, there is a bit of a deadline here - that we’ve got to try and find answers to long before that comes into place.”

The committee were due to receive a “briefing note” update on the ice rink situation from council officer Kate Dean. However, due to the council only receiving the report on the scope of repairs needed on Friday, October 16, it was not ready for committee viewing.

In response to the ability of Standard Securities to apply for the ice rink to be used in an alternative way, Kate Dean said: “That is correct, that there are provisions in the lease for the operator to apply to the council for a change of use.”

Concerns on the time-frame of necessary renovations to the rink were also raised. In response to a question on whether this was included in the documents submitted to the council, Kate Deane said: “I have read the report and it doesn’t contain a programme.”

Cllr Kim Taylor said: “I think it would be really helpful if the next meeting report was a very detailed and updated one. I think we are due a detailed update either with the reports or the essence of the reports plus the scope of the repairs and maintenance that are required. I think it might well be that we have to ask the portfolio holder to join the meeting to answer some questions that relate more to policy.”

Cllr Cousens went a step further, suggesting that action was needed as a matter of urgency.

“We are going to have to find another home for all the activities that go on there and yet we are asleep at the wheel in finding solutions here and, for whatever reason, the administration seem quite happy to let that happen and I don’t understand why, the ice rink users don’t understand why.

“They’re frustrated, I'm frustrated, other members of the committee are frustrated and yet we still need to be sleep-walking into this element where we’ll find ourselves in a very similar position to the football club where it's all going to get very last”

He added: “This at the moment seems like a bit of tokenism. At some point that doesn’t wash and I think we’re pretty much there.

Cllr Taylor also suggested that, while it had previously been made clear that the council does not financially support private companies, recent exceptions such as the case with Serco, reported by the Gazette last weekend, suggest a “change in attitude.”

In response, Kate Dean said: “I have been encouraging Planet Ice, if they have any requests of the council, to make them to me in writing so that they can be the basis of a discussion with the relevant portfolio holders. As of this morning, there was a general request about the council making a contribution. Progress relies entirely really on Planet Ice and we have encouraged that conversation.”

Bringing the discussion to a close, Cllr Paul Gaskell confirmed that the committee would be asking for documents relating to the change of use clause to be made available to them, as well as the full report and a detailed update at the next meeting.

“I would like to request officially that we get to see the report before the next meeting, and a full update at the next meeting in December, and I will expect the portfolio holder to turn up for that,” he said.