Trustee vs Trustee
Bloomfield vs Roberts. Both NRA Trustees. Click for papers.
NRA Litigation vs Artists Rifles Regiment
The Artists Rifles Clubhouse provides facilities and support to hundreds of veterans. The NRA had sought a rent increase of over 300% and is trying to introduce a clause that allowed it to give the tenant 12 months’ notice to leave without compensation. In the absence of getting their way NRA litigation was their weapon of choice.
Chairman of Artists Rifles club Moss Mustafa told Get Surrey the saga began in November 2012 when Andrew Mercer was appointed chief executive of the NRA.
In a letter to the Charity Commission, overseers of the NRA’s charitable status, Adam Holloway, MP for Gravesham, said the NRA had “fruitlessly pursued a vastly higher rental”.
Mr Holloway said the NRA had spent “between £200,000 and £300,000 of charitable funds on professional fees” in order to fight the case.
Letter signed by Adam Holloway, Philip Hollobone and David Tredinnick
- “Trustees of the NRA and their professional advisers have recognised that the clubhouses are supporting the objects of the charity, i.e. shooting and entertaining those dedicated to shooting, which had always been deemed more appropriate . . . than letting them out to generate cash.”
Comments made by Andrew Mercer in relation to incident
- “I can confirm NRA Trustees are entirely confident that their actions have been in the best interests of the Charity and fully compliant with the charitable Object.” Mercer. Daily Telegraph. December 2018
- “Since 2014 the NRA has successfully negotiated 53 new leases and renewals; the number of contentious matters is very small but incur a disproportionate amount of legal fees.” Mercer. Daily Telegraph. December 2018
- In 2016 several MP’s concerned by what was going on called Mercer and Webster to the Commons. Mercer even concealed information and misled MP’s at that meeting, as per Sir Julian Brazier MP’s email to Webster:
“Mr. Mercer chose to tell the meeting that a report suggested that ‘improvements’ in the building amounted to only £61,000, but we were astonished to subsequently discover that he had concealed from us the very much larger sum in ‘refurbishments’ which were detailed in the same report (together some £400,000). Although there is a technical distinction in the two terms this concealment was, at the very least, misleading.”
- Previous NRA management gave the Artists Rifles an agreement confirming their rent would remain as it was subject to renovations being completed. These were completed. Then the NRA Chairman and CEO changed.
- In 2014 the NRA sought to increase the rent from £3,150 a year, initially to £18,000, then reduced this to £14,700, nevertheless an increase which meant continued operation of the shooting club was untenable.
- “For an organisation as big as the NRA to be using such bully boy tactics is a classic David and Goliath story,” – former SAS Commanding Officer
- Colonel Tim Collins was a figurehead for a £200,000 fundraising campaign for the clubhouse. He said the case had left it “steeped in debt”.
- Why were NRA Trustees not told in June 2013 about Strutt & Parker’s professional advice that Artists rent should be £3,350 or that unqualified NRA staff were demanding £18,000?
- The NRA staff had no authority from the NRA Trustees to deviate from Strutt & Parker’s professional advice at that time.
- Were the Charity Commission told about Strutt & Parker’s professional advice that rent should be £3,350? Were they told about the (unqualified) NRA staff suggestion of £18,000 for rent.
- After a protracted legal dispute, an independent arbitrator has ruled in favour of the clubhouse and set the rent at £4,000 in December 2018. The NRA have to date refused to sign the new lease and are once again in the process of being taken to court over this.
NRA Litigation vs North London Rifle Club
The North London Rifle Club (NLRC) lease was in the names of two trustees representing the club. When these senior members died the NLRC asked the NRA if they needed to update the lease. The correct answer was yes. The actual answer provided by the NRA staff was no. We believe the NRA’s solicitors at the time also said “No, no need to bother”. When matters came to court the NRA relied on the lease being invalid and hence that any new lease should be a new lease of the land and building rather than just an extension of the old lease of the land as it had previously been. It is outrageous for the NRA to renege on the words of their staff and lawyers. Sadly this is a common feature of all the lease renewals where words or letters of comfort assuring the tenants of lease renewals have been ignored.
In March 2016 the NRA served a Section 25 Notice on the NLRC demanding an increase in the rent from £2,500 to £22,000. Again, written advice, including a valuation, from a qualified surveyor was never provided.
The increase in rent is believed to be based on an amateur calculation using the SRA rent, which itself had only been agreed under duress and ignoring the professional valuation from Strutt & Parker. A June 2017 article on the Surrey Live website indicates that the NRA UK and the Artist Rifles and North London Rifle Club (“NLRC”) have been involved in a four-year dispute concerning rent on a site in Bisley. According to the article Mercer is the key driver of the dispute having ignored a rent evaluation by Strutt and Parker. According to the Chairman of the NLRC in January 2014, the club received six months’ notice to accept Mercer’s terms.
- The NRA, via Mercer, insists that the rise in lease prices is necessary in order to put all clubs on “the same footing” and that it is time some clubs stop “benefiting” from “advantageous” rents.
- When NLRC officers met Mr Mercer & Mr Baillie just prior to a scheduled Court hearing, Mr. Bailie stated: “the North has no negotiating position”: both Mr Baillie and Mr Mercer were therefore well aware that this was far from an arms-length negotiation and were expressing a clear desire to take full advantage of the club’s weakened situation.
- It is germane to the suggestion that the NRA has failed to comply with Charity Law, Charity Commission guidelines and displayed a lack of proper governance when negotiating leases with multimember Bisley clubs.
- Having spent over £50,000 on legal fees, the NLRC had no alternative than to settle on a rent of £14,900pa which it can ill afford for its old and high maintenance building. Separately the NLRC believes that Mr Mercer has been hiking up their electricity costs and, in the face of Mercer’s refusal to provide an answer to these allegations is in the process of taking the NRA to court once again.
NRA Litigation vs Bisley Shooting Ground
Anthony Roupell purchased BSG in 1998 with a commitment from the NRA for two 21 year leases. Anthony Roupell also bailed the NRA out of financial difficulty in 2000. Since then BSG has operated shooting grounds at Cottesloe Heath & Long Siberia, building the family business into one of the country’s top clay shooting grounds, and a significant employer.
The NRA has now refused to renew the second term of the lease and is trying to take the business in hand Anthony Roupell and Alexander Roupell, owners of the Bisley Shooting Ground (BSG) said in a statement published by The Times in July 2019 “This attitude seems to be in line with the NRA’s history of taking an apparently aggressive stance with tenants, as we know they have been involved in a number of proceedings with other tenants, spending valuable charity funds on lawyers in the process.” Since January 2019 the NRA have hired Richie Vallance and his team to try to apparently ‘interfere, damage and frustrate’ Bisley Shooting Ground.
- The NRA has developed an aggressive and hostile approach to dealing with its tenants and is using tactics that are damaging to BSG’s business and reputation.
- Such tactics include removing commercially important signage that has been in place for 20 years, issuing damaging press releases, publicly misrepresenting BSG financials, repeated ground surveys, attempting to surround the grounds with metal fencing, misleading NRA members and refusing BSG rent.
- In a press release published by the NRA, it made various defamatory statements about BSG and its operations. In response, BSG compiled the statements and answered them accordingly. Defamatory statements are found below and on BSG’s official website
- The increasing attention from press, politicians and the public on the NRA’s handling of BSG is concerning. This November Kate Hoey MP who was Chairman of the Countryside Alliance 2006-2015 and Minister for Sport 1999-2001 asked the following questions in Parliament:
To: Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
Re: National Rifle Association
To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, whether she has held meetings with representatives of the Charity Commission to discuss the corporate governance standards of the National Rifle Association.Kate Hoey MP
To: Ministry of DefenceNational
Re: Rifle AssociationKate Hoey MP
To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, what assessment he has made of the National Rifle Association’s compliance with its charitable purpose to promote the (a) efficiency of the armed forces and (b) defence of the Realm.
- The NRA remains in litigation with BSG and, despite the existing court injunction is using various forms of pressure on BSG and disrupting their business. NRA CEO Andrew Mercer and NRA General Manager Richie Vallance have conducted 12+ surveys of BSG at great cost to NRA Members. What benefit it is to the Charity to spend towards £20,000 on surveys including soil samples of a clay ground?
NRA Litigation vs St George’s Lodge
St George’s Lodge was developed by the London and Middlesex Rifle Association (LMRA) in 1998/9 under a 21-year lease granted by the National Rifle Association.
Before the Lease was originally entered, written assurances were given by the then Chief Executive of the NRA, Colin Cheshire, that the Lease would be renewed on expiry.
Letters of comfort relating to the availability of a lease renewal were provided by further NRA CEOs in 2 letters in 2011, the second of which (from Derrick Mabbott) also confirmed in email discussion that the new rental amount would be adjusted by inflation.
However, in recent years, that policy has now been changed. The NRA policy now is:
- There will be no automatic right to renew Leases;
- Upon expiry of Leases the buildings, whether or not provided and paid for by the tenants, become the property of the NRA, and the NRA will now charge rental on the building in addition to the land;
- New Leases will only be granted at the open market rental value related to the land and buildings.
- In February 2017, the NRA Chairman briefed the NRA’s General Council on the NRA’s Estate Policy, which included the following statement:
- “Were there a similar process of a club building its own club house today, eligibility for a ground rent would only last for 2 periods of tenancy as per the published Real Estate policy, and after that a rack rent (ground and buildings) would be payable.”
- This was pursued this line with the NRA Chairman as St George’s Lodge was a 90%+ new build of an existing but dilapidated army building. Having demonstrated this by providing the St George’s construction specification, the proposal was reviewed at an NRA Trustees meeting in August 2017 at which the proposal was rejected.
- The NRA’s opening position was that whilst being prepared to grant a new 21-year lease for St George’s Lodge, the rent would need to rise from the present £3,500 per annum level to between £28,000 and £32,000 per annum.
- After extensive and prolonged negotiations, the NRA’s expectations in terms in rental were reduced to £22,000 per annum. Then further to £15,000 per annum and finally to their absolutely, non-negotiable, bottom line aspiration of £12,000 per annum.
- In September 2017, St George’s offered to agree a rent on a new lease of £8,000 per annum, more than twice what they previously paid, and consistent with the government’s Valuation Office Agency recent re-valuation of the rateable value for St George’s Lodge of £8,100.
NRA Litigation vs The Surrey Rifle Association
On 8th February 2012 the SRA received a Section 25 notice from Barlow Robbins, based on advice from Strutt and Parker, proposing a new lease for their particular building at a rent of £2,650 p.a.
In September 2012 Richard Bailie, [referred to as a Chartered Surveyor] was appointed a Trustee of the NRA.
Significantly, by this time Richard Bailie had ceased to be professionally qualified as he had retired and resigned from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), therefore contrary to what the Charity Commission may have been told, any advice provided to the NRA Trustees was clearly not ‘professional’.
- In 2013 Mr Mercer put forward to SRA officers that a market rent of £17,000 was appropriate but was prepared to discount it to £8,500 in view of the restriction that leases must be for shooting related tenants.
- In a note to David Crispin of the SRA, Mr Mercer sought to justify the £8,500 rent by quoting square foot comparable, suggesting that he felt the rent for the Surrey should be between about £12,400 to £15,050.
- Why were NRA Trustees not told in July 2013 about Strutt & Parker’s professional advice that Surrey rent should be £2,900 or that unqualified NRA staff were demanding £17,500?
- The NRA staff had no authority from the NRA Trustees to deviate from Strutt & Parker’s professional advice at that time.
- Mr Mercer chose to keep to himself and failed to inform the NRA Trustees at that time about the original valuation of £2,650 from Strutt & Parker.
- After expensive legal wrangling costing the SRA in excess of £30,000 and presumably a similar amount for the NRA, a new lease was eventually signed under duress in November 2014 at £8,500 p.a. It is understood from Dr Robin Pizer (then chairman of the NRA), that the NRA Trustees were never informed of the original independent advice of Strutt and Parker.
NRA Litigation vs The Bisley Pavillion
A live music, events and hotel venue previously owned by Shaun Hopwood.
Signed a lease with the NRA in 1996.
- Mr Hopwood said that in 2012, after the freeholder appointed new management, it became “commercially impractical to run” under the landlord’s terms.
- The former tenant said during his tenancy he spent more than £500,000 improving a “broken” building.
- The NRA would leave the building largely uninhabited and only open it in May 2019
Comments made by Andrew Mercer
- “We are looking to make it more shooting-orientated,” Mr Mercer admitted.
- “We get people from all over the world come to Bisley”
- “We are looking to improve it for them. It’s a terrific building, there’s a lot to do to rejuvenate and refresh and brighten it up to a modern standard.” Andrew Mercer. Surrey Live on April 2016
- Shaun Hopwood had to close down Bisley Pavilion due to increasing costs set by the NRA
- Shaun has disclosed he has been repeatedly bullied by Mr Mercer, including an occasion where the NRA evicted guests from the hotel in the early hours of the morning and paid to get bailiffs to change the locks. This was later overruled as Mr Hopwood took the NRA to court and regained possession of his hotel.
NRA Litigation vs The British Pistol Club
The club was shut down due to hiked rent. In further attack on pistol shooters NRA CEO Andrew Mercer destroys Olympic hopeful dreams of pistol shooters by pricing them out of their range. Aren’t the NRA supposed to support & encourage these athletes? In the past GP Pistol have won two Olympic team medals.
These are British athletes at the peak of their sport working hard trying to represent Great Britain in the upcoming Olympics. How is the NRA, a registered Charity whose Patron is The Queen and President Prince Charles, not holding the NRA Chairman and Trustees accountable for the CEO’s actions? We imagine this is something the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport would want to investigate…
NRA vs Muzzle Loaders of Great Britain
The Muzzle Loaders Association of Great Britain (MLAGB) formed in 1952 were one of the first victims of NRA CEO Andrew Mercer’s rent hikes. For years the MLAGB leased the distinctive red and white roofed Exhibition Hut in the centre of Bisley Camp and expended considerable effort to maintain it. Despite the rental income, the intrinsic benefit of the Club and the spending money of the many MLAGB users and visitors (including international shooters) NRA CEO Andrew Mercer had other ideas.
In another abrupt, bullying and ill thought through move Andrew Mercer had visions of kicking out the MLAGB and developing the building as a Visitors Centre. Mercer therefore told the MLAGB that their lease would not be renewed, instead offering them alternate premises at outrageous and unaffordable rent hikes. Sadly the MLAGB had no option but to vacate and leave the Camp on which they had played such a central role.
The NRA then put their men to work disregarding the fact that the building was Grade 2 listed. Surrey planning department investigated and put an immediate stop on the work as no planning had been granted. Mercer disregarded this and continued the work however was found out by the conservation officer. We understand there was a Court case and repercussions over this.
At the Bisley General Meeting Tuesday 23rd July 2019 Paul Cutts asks: “Can you tell this meeting Mr Mercer, how long the building has been empty as a clubhouse? Andrew Mercer: I think it’s been empty for 5 years. It was originally going to be the Visitor Centre. That didn’t come to pass”.
Planning approval is yet to be forthcoming and in light of previous experience Surrey planners are unlikely to look kindly on anything from the NRA. It is not clear what the eventual cost to Members will be to bring it back into listed condition. Most likely it will be simply left to decay away.
NRA Litigation vs Bullet Lodge Clubhouse
The club shut its doors after it could not keep up with increased rental prices
2020 Freemasons Rifle Club vs NRA
NRA CEO Andrew Mercer and the NRA Trustees are once again looking to ruin a tenant on Bisley Camp. The NRA are trying to increase the Sit Perpetuum Rifle CLub’s rent by 370% to £8,000. The NRA do not have professional advice to back this increase up, and are instead trying to bully yet another tenant. Will this become another Artist’s Rifles Clubhouse Story and another huge waste of NRA funds in litigation?
Unanswered ABCAT Questions
Why are the NRA refusing to answer simple questions. What are they hiding?