North Yorkshire’s crime commissioner has defended the handling of the sale of the former police headquarters to a children’s holidays firm after it emerged more than £750,000 of the £2.5m agreed price has been spent maintaining it during a wait to complete the deal.
Following the publication of a decision notice stating the sale of Newby Wiske Hall to PGL may not complete until May 2022, North Yorkshire Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner’s office has confirmed it has spent one per cent of the purchase price, or £25,000, owning and maintaining the grade II listed property every month since November 2017.
The sale of the historic hall has been mired in controversy with residents voicing fury over the commissioner’s decision to sell the property to a firm wanting to create an adventure holidays centre for youngsters with 550 guest beds, which they say will ruin the tranquillity of the surrounding area.
Commissioner Julia Mulligan has said it was imbuement on her to achieve best value for money for the public purse and following the resolution of High Court legal actions and planning hearings, the sale could finally go ahead.
However, a spokesman for the commissioner said as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, PGL had asked to extend the date they would take ownership from May this year, for up to two years.
In June, PGL angered parents by refusing to offer refunds for cancel visits during the coronavirus lockdown.
Instead, the holiday company is offering customers a “refund credit note”.
The commissioner’s spokesman said there had been no change to the agreed sales price and the buyer had additionally agreed to pay for the costs incurred in maintaining the building from May.
Campaigners said if the commissioner had taken onboard views of residents and found a more suitable purchaser for the property it was likely that the public purse would have benefitted significantly.
David Stockport, of Newby Wiske Action Group, said:
“Given that PGL are only paying £2.5m in total for the purchase of the property, for the commissioner to effectively waste over £750,000 of this is a scandal.”
The commissioner’s spokesman said the delays over the sale had been beyond the commissioner’s control.
“The financial impact of the decision to relocate North Yorkshire Police headquarters in June 2015 needs to be assessed in terms of all the changes that have led from that undertaking.
The move to Alverton Court, North Yorkshire Police’s new headquarters, along with the move of Northallerton Police Station into the building and the co-location with North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service is saving taxpayers in total around £1.1 million pounds a year – £600,000 per year solely from the move of the police headquarters.
It was expected the sale of Newby Wiske would conclude shortly after the move to Alverton Court of the police headquarters was completed in September 2017.
However, clearly, that has not proved to be the case due to the judicial reviews, revised planning decisions and other legal issues – all of which have been out of the control of the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner.
Given the approximate £600,000 per year savings from the move, set against the approximate £300,000 annual running cost of Newby Wiske since the move, there has already been a substantial cost saving for taxpayers and now the purchaser has taken over paying the ongoing running costs of the former headquarters, these savings will increase.”