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.
Loading article content
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.