An arson-hit grade two listed farmhouse in Redcar has been left to go to “rack and ruin”, a local councillor claims.

Manor House Farm is among a handful of remaining buildings built in the 18th century for the Turner family of Kirkleatham which were intended to house tenant farmers.

Councillor Chris Jones claimed Redcar and Cleveland Council had been negligent in failing to protect the listed asset, which is situated on Kirkleatham Business Park.The Northern Echo:

The council in response said it had established extensive security on the property, which also went by the name of Meggits Farm in years gone by, and was working to preserve a future for it.

Cllr Jones said he was “passionate” about local history and had first raised a concern about the vulnerability of the building with council managing director John Sampson four years ago, requesting a site meeting at the time, and had sent many similar e-mails to officers.

Liberal Democrat Cllr Jones, who is standing as a General Election candidate in Redcar, said: “As an advocate for protecting what little heritage Redcar has left I am devastated by what has happened here. 

“This wonderful historic grade two listed farmhouse has been left to go to rack and ruin with little to no effort by the local authority to secure it from the inevitable vandalism it has been subject to.

“I have personally campaigned for almost five years for [the council] to take some accountability and responsibility for this asset to no avail and I’m furious that the situation has now ended up with a series of very destructive arson attacks.”  The Northern Echo:

Cleveland Fire Brigade said it had attended at the farmhouse five times to separate incidents in a nine-day period between April 26 and May 4 which were all believed to be deliberate.

In the latest incident dealt with by its crews, the brigade described the farmhouse as being “well alight” with 50% fire damage resulting inside the main building and 60% fire damage to its exterior.

Meanwhile, in a recent e-mail sent to members of the council shared with the Local Democracy Reporting Service, Mary Wilson, who said her brother previously lived in the property, it having been subsequently transferred into the ownership of the council, said she was “beyond disgusted” by the situation.

She described a formal complaint having been lodged over alleged failures to protect it and the farmhouse being on fire as the “final straw”.

In another e-mail, she wrote: “It continues to impact us as we cannot use the paddock we own adjoining the farm due to the anti-social behaviour.  “Even the gate has been stolen!”

The e-mail also took issue with various decisions taken by the local authority and said there were a lot of questions needing to be answered.

According to an entry on the Historic England website Manor Farm – which is thought to date back as far as 1740 – is “part of a planned farm building complex, including adjoining barns, byre range, foldyard, stable, cart shed, screen wall, privy and outhouse, and the whole group is Grade II listed.”

The council said discussions were ongoing “regarding a potential commercial opportunity” for the site, although it is not clear what this could mean for the farmhouse.

The LDRS previously reported how an option to lease had been signed with the firm Oasthouse Ventures to potentially build a massive commercial greenhouse on the land.

A spokesman said: “The council hugely values the history and heritage of our borough.  “We have established extensive security at the building and are working on potential commercial options with partners in the private sector with a view to securing the future of the site. 

“The Manor Farm property and associated outbuildings were under a farming tenancy agreement until late 2021.  

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The Northern Echo:

“At this stage, the council secured the building by installing security systems which linked to the council’s 24-hour CCTV monitoring service, protected the site with fencing and arranged for daily mobile security inspections to inspect and protect the property.  

“In spite of these efforts, anti-social behaviour has continued and this has led to the council installing brickwork to all windows and doorways preventing access to the main property in an attempt to preserve the remainder of the property.”

The spokesman added that “static guarding” had now been introduced in response to the latest arson attack.