CONCERNS have been raised that land - in the grounds of a 19th century stately home sold by a council for just £241,000 - is being offered for sale for a multi-million pound luxury housing complex.
The owners of Windlestone Hall, near Rushyford, County Durham, a grade II* listed building which was the birthplace of former Conservative Prime Minister Sir Anthony Eden, are seeking a buyer for 7.55 acres of land.
According to confidential documents obtained by The Northern Echo the land is suitable for 20 to 25 executive homes.
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Durham county councillor John Shuttleworth said the housing proposal highlighted the fact the property was sold for a fraction of its value.
Cllr Shuttleworth, who estimated the plot could fetch as much as £2.5m, said: "The whole thing stinks - it just doesn't sit right with me at all and the fact that they're selling it confidentially doesn't help.
"It should not have been sold for such a low price in the first place.
"But there should also have been a clause in the sale that meant there was a clawback to the council if money was made from the land."
The original sale was investigated by independent auditors after Coun Shuttleworth made a complaint.
They supported the Durham County Council's £241,000 valuation, but said a second independent figure should have been sought.
Crook-based Land agents Wisemove have been asked by the owners to look for potential buyers for the plot.
Sale documents reveal that the proposal is for a gated community of detached, executive homes.
Discussions have taken place with planners at the county council.
Graeme Blenkinsopp, from Wisemove, said: "Any sale would be subject to many factors, such as planning permission being granted, and any planning permission that may be granted is expected to be subject to a legal agreement by way of enablement consent, which would see any proceeds of sale obligated for direction to the redevelopment of the historic hall."
Stuart Timmiss, the county council's head of planning and assets, defended the original sale of the hall.
He said: “Given the condition of the building, the state of the market at the time and the very significant maintenance costs being incurred by the council, the sale price gained for Windlestone Hall was realistic and not an undervaluation.
“An earlier offer for a higher value had not been realised as it was based on a plan to build homes in the grounds which were rejected because they were not compatible with the hall's listed building status.”