POLICE have been urged to investigate a council's sale of an historic hall for just £241,000.
Durham county councillor John Shuttleworth has written to Durham Constabulary calling for an inquiry into the sale of Windlestone Hall, near Rushyford.
Cllr Shuttleworth claims his own authority acted fraudulently when it sold the grade II-listed hall in 2012 for what he claims was a fraction of its true value.
The councillor spoke out after 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.
According to documents, the plot is suitable for 20 to 25 executive homes, with the proceeds of the sale paying for the hall to be renovated.
In a letter to Durham chief constable Mike Barton, the Weardale councillor called for a full investigation into the sale.
He said: "The department which sold the land and property and the department now giving the go-ahead for the development on the site is one and the same.
"A similar planning application for enabling development at Hamsterley Hall, near Ebchester, was turned down by planners and then turned down again at appeal stage."
Cllr Shuttleworth said he wanted to know what was different about this application.
In response, Ian Thompson, Durham County Council’s corporate director of regeneration, pointed out that an external auditor carried out an investigation into the sale and concluded that it was not possible to substantiate claims that the authority could have made more money from the deal.
"The auditor also found that the sale was compliant with the council’s policy requirements," Mr Thompson said.
“The property was on the market for a number of years, during which time we worked extremely hard to secure an offer that would protect the building’s historic importance and also provide the best value for money for the council.
"Given the condition of the building, the state of the market, the very significant maintenance costs that were being incurred by the council and the limitations on any possible development in the grounds, the offer we eventually accepted was the only viable one we received."
The officer added that as well as generating £240,000 for the council, the sale had delivered substantial savings, including £250,000 since November 2011 on security, heating and repair costs.
Durtham Constabulary confirmed it had received a letter regarding the sale of the hall and it would be considered in due course.