Since it became public that the Silk Mill had stopped weaving there has been much support expressed for its important position in the town, both as a tourist attraction and as a working heritage site.
The public meeting, which attracted over 100 people was a clear expression of the important position the Mill has in the town. Those present were informed that a number of the previous Directors had resigned to be replaced by new ‘local’ Directors and a new acting Chairman who were committed to the Mill being an integral part of the local community.
Many left that meeting confused as the Mill’s General Manager then announced that the change of Directors was “not legitimate”.
However, a statement has now been received by the new ‘Acting Chairman’ Cllr Keith Watts.
In it he states that the former Chairman, Mr Howard Birtwistle is now claiming that “the Board remains intact”. This is despite three of those resignations being made in writing.
In addition the ‘new’ Board members have received a letter from the Mill’s General Manager Stephen Bryer stating “I must make it clear that you are not a Trustee”.
…others think differently
Despite this, Cllr Watts says that the legal advisers of Basingstoke & Deane who provide around £25,000 of public funding each year, and the Hampshire Buildings Preservation Trust who are the freehold owners of the Mill, are supporting the position of the new appointees.
This latest contradictory position has been queried with the Manager of Mill, but no response has been received from Mr Bryer.
We produce the statement of the Acting Chairman in full below.
WHITCHURCH SILK MILL TRUST
Statement by the Acting Chairman, Keith Watts, on 4th August 20I2
l am a Borough Councillor for Whitchurch and l have been the Council’s representative as a Trustee of Whitchurch Silk Mill Trust Limited since November 2007. On Friday 20th July 2012 four Trustees resigned, leaving me as the only sitting member of the Board of Trustees. Before the resignations took effect at the end of that meeting the Board elected two people to join me on the Board. Sue Washington is expert in the keeping and display of textiles and in museum education and interpretation. Geoff Hide’s family owned and ran Whitchurch Silk Mill for seventy years and he is an authority on its history and heritage. We have been joined by Phil Turner, Treasurer of Hampshire Buildings Preservation Trust, owners of the freehold, who represents them on our Board. l expect Hampshire County Council to nominate a member of this Board soon.
ln order to anchor the Trust firmly in the Whitchurch Community, we will invite Whitchurch Town Council to become a Member of the Trust and to nominate a representative to join the Board of Trustees. That will leave three vacancies on the Board.
We are looking for someone qualified to join us as Finance Director.
To my surprise, when l returned on Saturday 28th July from a week away on holiday, l found a recorded delivery letter from the former Chairman who had resigned eight days earlier. lt was addressed to Basingstoke & Deane Borough Council and said that my appointment (as a Trustee) should have come to an end in 2009. It also said that the outgoing Trustees are required to give three months’ notice in writing so “the Board remains intact”. On Tuesday 3lst July the three new Trustees each received a letter from the General Manager of the Silk Mill saying “l must make it clear that you are not a Trustee”.
Following these extraordinary letters, l am pleased to say that the legal advisers of Basingstoke & Deane Borough Council and Hampshire Buildings Preservation Trust are confident that l am still a Trustee, that my three new colleagues will be Trustees when the necessary documents have been signed and that the three former Trustees whose resignations were confirmed in writing are not now members of the Board because three months’ notice are not required. The position of the former Chairman remains in doubt because he did not put his resignation in writing.
This is all frustrating for those of us who are ready to put a lot of work into making the Mill a successful visitor attraction and viable business again, in partnership with the local Councils. But we are not wasting the time while the legal challenges are contested; we are making plans and drawing together other volunteers with skills and experience to help us. l urge all interested people to join the Friends of Whitchurch Silk Mill.
Although its core funding comes from council taxpayers, and a lot of effort is put in by volunteers, Whitchurch Silk Mill Trust has been run recently as a private business. l think we would all like to see a future in which volunteers can take part at all levels and supporters of the Mill can express their opinions and receive answers to their questions.
We know that a lot of people care about Whitchurch Silk Mill; we need their backing now for our vision of its future.
The article on the public meeting can be read HERE