Council rejects wrongdoing over hall sale

Darlington and Stockton Times: SALE ROW: Windlestone Hall, near Rushyford, County Durham, which was sold by Durham County Council SALE ROW: Windlestone Hall, near Rushyford, County Durham, which was sold by Durham County Council

A LOCAL authority has rejected any wrongdoing over the sale of an historic hall after police were urged to investigate.

Durham County Council stressed that no planning application has been received or approved for a luxury housing development in the grounds of grade II-listed Windlestone Hall, near Rushyford.

The authority issued a statement after Weardale councillor John Shuttleworth accused the authority of acting fraudulently when it sold the hall for just £241,000 in 2012.

Earlier this week, Cllr Shuttleworth wrote to Durham Constabulary chief constable Mike Barton urging him to order an investigation into the sale.

He said the same department at county hall that approved the sale had now given the go-ahead for a housing development in the grounds.

But Ian Thompson, Durham County Council’s corporate director of regeneration, said: "This is not true, no consent has been issued or indicated and no planning application has even been received by the council."

Last week The Northern Echo revealed how the owners of the hall were seeking a buyer for 7.55 acres of land in the grounds of the property.

The plot is suitable for 20 to 25 executive homes and the proceeds of the sale would pay for the hall to be renovated, documents stated.

Commenting on the council's decision to sell the hall, Mr Thompson said: “After five years of negotiation and the council incurring significant costs for security and emergency repairs, it was concluded by the planning department, in consultation with English Heritage, that the constraints of the listed status combined with the setting of the grounds meant development of this nature would not be acceptable. At the same time the hall was continuing to deteriorate.

"It was for these reasons that the council took the decision to accept a bid from an individual who wished to buy the property for a family home and to restore the house and grounds to its original use.

"It is therefore disappointing that nearly three years on it appears this is no longer the case. However the planning issues will remain the same and no application has been received.”

The council stressed that an external auditor carried out an investigation into the sale of hall and concluded that it was not possible to substantiate claims that the council could have made more money from the sale.

"The auditor also found that the sale was compliant with the council’s policy requirements," Mr Thompson said.

Mr Shuttleworth said he stood by his criticisms regarding the sale and his call for a police investigation.

Comments (9)

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7:57am Fri 23 May 14

somethinginsidesostrong says...

"The auditor found the sale was compliant with the Council's policy requirement's" - Perleaze - do not insult our intelligence! It is derigeur for the Council to, yes even legally find a way out and around things. Until things are investigated further. Essex Council, Milton Keynes Council (16/5/14) within the past week have been shamed for acting illegally . Such Councils were found guilty of short circuiting procedure, without real Authority/Authorisat
ion. There HAS TO BE checks and balances and Procedure. DUE PROCESS - so more INDEPENDENT AUDITORS HAVE TO BE DRAWN INTO THE EQUATION NOW. The Police Commissioner who resides in County Hall, has to ensure all was above board ;) (no sniff of secret handshakes.) We demand more Procedure and Transparency!
"The auditor found the sale was compliant with the Council's policy requirement's" - Perleaze - do not insult our intelligence! It is derigeur for the Council to, yes even legally find a way out and around things. Until things are investigated further. Essex Council, Milton Keynes Council (16/5/14) within the past week have been shamed for acting illegally . Such Councils were found guilty of short circuiting procedure, without real Authority/Authorisat ion. There HAS TO BE checks and balances and Procedure. DUE PROCESS - so more INDEPENDENT AUDITORS HAVE TO BE DRAWN INTO THE EQUATION NOW. The Police Commissioner who resides in County Hall, has to ensure all was above board ;) (no sniff of secret handshakes.) We demand more Procedure and Transparency! somethinginsidesostrong
  • Score: 13

8:12am Fri 23 May 14

359282 says...

I wonder if the county council took any legal advice prior to accepting the price or during the conveyance of the property.

If so, it should be disclosed. I would be particularly interested to learn why there was no covenant included in the sale, giving a proportion of any future development proceeds, as this would normally be the case.

Unfortunately, this case appears to be a choice of either incompetence or dishonesty, resulting in very poor custodianship of taxpayers asserts.
I wonder if the county council took any legal advice prior to accepting the price or during the conveyance of the property. If so, it should be disclosed. I would be particularly interested to learn why there was no covenant included in the sale, giving a proportion of any future development proceeds, as this would normally be the case. Unfortunately, this case appears to be a choice of either incompetence or dishonesty, resulting in very poor custodianship of taxpayers asserts. 359282
  • Score: 14

8:58am Fri 23 May 14

bambara says...

the council took the decision to accept a bid from an individual who
So after all the accusations of corruption and dishonesty the other side of the story starts to come out:-

"After five years of negotiation and the council incurring significant costs for security and emergency repairs"
"no consent has been issued or indicated and no planning application has even been received by the council"
"It is therefore disappointing that nearly three years on it appears this is no longer the case. However the planning issues will remain the same and no application has been received"
The council sold the property to avoid racking up ever more costs for it's maintenance.
They sold it to an individual who supposedly-"wished to buy the property for a family home and to restore the house and grounds to its original use"

That buyer then changed his mind (or perhaps lied to the council in the first place to obtain the property at a favourable price?) but in either case the council is indicating that they will not be allowed to build a bunch of houses on the site (The discussions with English Heritage and the listed building status being a factor preventing permission from being granted, and a reason why the sale was not more expensive in the first place)

Looks like the person who needs investigating is the buyer.
the council took the decision to accept a bid from an individual who So after all the accusations of corruption and dishonesty the other side of the story starts to come out:- "After five years of negotiation and the council incurring significant costs for security and emergency repairs" "no consent has been issued or indicated and no planning application has even been received by the council" "It is therefore disappointing that nearly three years on it appears this is no longer the case. However the planning issues will remain the same and no application has been received" The council sold the property to avoid racking up ever more costs for it's maintenance. They sold it to an individual who supposedly-"wished to buy the property for a family home and to restore the house and grounds to its original use" That buyer then changed his mind (or perhaps lied to the council in the first place to obtain the property at a favourable price?) but in either case the council is indicating that they will not be allowed to build a bunch of houses on the site (The discussions with English Heritage and the listed building status being a factor preventing permission from being granted, and a reason why the sale was not more expensive in the first place) Looks like the person who needs investigating is the buyer. bambara
  • Score: 1

10:17am Fri 23 May 14

somethinginsidesostrong says...

Well said Bambra - spot on!
Well said Bambra - spot on! somethinginsidesostrong
  • Score: -4

10:26am Fri 23 May 14

359282 says...

The morals of the purchaser is not the issue ( what about future subsequent purchasers) .
The Council should have ensured that the proceeds from any possible future development were legally retained for the public purse.

This is normal in properties where there is a large area of land - I wonder why it didn't happen in this case-, unless, of course, if the Council ignored legal advice to insert such a clause in the sale.
The morals of the purchaser is not the issue ( what about future subsequent purchasers) . The Council should have ensured that the proceeds from any possible future development were legally retained for the public purse. This is normal in properties where there is a large area of land - I wonder why it didn't happen in this case-, unless, of course, if the Council ignored legal advice to insert such a clause in the sale. 359282
  • Score: 3

10:41am Fri 23 May 14

Copley23 says...

Happens often with developers.

They buy the land subject to consents.....then sit on it. It screws up the councils housing plans (and future figures)....screws up the budgets............a
nd could result in the council kicking off and pulling the plans apart for the heck of it.

And guess what, HA's are actually worse than private developers......so take your pick. Either way....it stinks.
Happens often with developers. They buy the land subject to consents.....then sit on it. It screws up the councils housing plans (and future figures)....screws up the budgets............a nd could result in the council kicking off and pulling the plans apart for the heck of it. And guess what, HA's are actually worse than private developers......so take your pick. Either way....it stinks. Copley23
  • Score: 10

1:31pm Fri 23 May 14

punkrocker says...

council liars. also don't expect the labour run police to investigate. all corrupt. I don't like ukip but they could finally help to break labours stranglehold and corruption of county durham.
council liars. also don't expect the labour run police to investigate. all corrupt. I don't like ukip but they could finally help to break labours stranglehold and corruption of county durham. punkrocker
  • Score: 13

7:42pm Fri 23 May 14

peter laidler says...

Unless I've misunderstood the Councils response; They, having consulted English Heritage, sold the house to a private buyer on the clear understanding that he/she would renovate the property for their personal use? Given that it is a Grade 2 listed building I presume the new owner would not be able demolish the property, but what happens to the surrounding land? I find it difficult to believe that there is not more to this deal than meets the eye.
Unless I've misunderstood the Councils response; They, having consulted English Heritage, sold the house to a private buyer on the clear understanding that he/she would renovate the property for their personal use? Given that it is a Grade 2 listed building I presume the new owner would not be able demolish the property, but what happens to the surrounding land? I find it difficult to believe that there is not more to this deal than meets the eye. peter laidler
  • Score: 4

9:55pm Fri 23 May 14

tubgut says...

peter laidler is correct the hall should be surveyed to ensure the renovation has been completed or has the neglect continued? Should this be the case then the terms of the sale have been breach? Don't have much confidence in anything been done.
peter laidler is correct the hall should be surveyed to ensure the renovation has been completed or has the neglect continued? Should this be the case then the terms of the sale have been breach? Don't have much confidence in anything been done. tubgut
  • Score: 4

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