Sale of Urchfont Manor
17th January 2012
- Decision taken by Wiltshire Council Cabinet to sell off Urchfont Manor during 2012, but with an amendment to put in place mechanisms to protect community used facilities.
18th January 2012
- Thirty three members of the public attended the Urchfont Parish Council meeting to hear an update from Wiltshire Council (WC) representatives and pose questions on the sale of Urchfont Manor. The meeting was attended by Lionel Grundy WC Divisional Member and two Officers of WC, Mark Stone and Julie Anderson-Hill. Mark Stone, the Council Transformation Officer gave a brief introduction during which he confirmed that the decision had been taken by WC Cabinet Members on 17th January to sell Urchfont Manor at some point during 2012. However, an amendment to the proposal / decision, influenced by timely interaction from Urchfont Parish Council had also been agreed which put in place mechanisms to facilitate access and long term use of Oakfrith Wood, the playing field area and cricket ground for the community.
A Q&A session then took place during which members of the public sought to clarify a number of issues including: (Wiltshire Council answers are briefly summarised, but the words have not been subject to approval by WC)
Q. Why the decision to sell appears to have been taken hastily and without more time for consultation locally
A. the decision has not been taken lightly or hastily, it must be appreciated that a lot of the detail is considered commercially sensitive and therefore could not be discussed openly;
Q. Why proposed business plans to secure the future of Urchfont Manor appear to have been ignored by the Council
A. plans submitted over the last two years have been considered but were not considered financially viable;
Q. Whether the Manor will be sold off as a single package including the community used land (Oakfrith Wood, Playing Fields, Cricket Ground)
A. Advice has been received to sell it off as a single package which is considered to be more attractive to potential buyers, but with legal mechanisms in place to facilitate protection and continued use of facilities by the community;
Q. Whether the Community used facilities could be transferred to the Parish Council rather than being included in the sale package
A. This is unlikely;
Q. What mechanisms will be put in place to secure lasting use of the facilities for and by the community
A. After liaison with the Parish Council and other interested parties, legal mechanisms probably based on long term leases will be put in place subject to conditions to ensure continuity of use and management by the local community;
Q. Whether the Council will be prepared to consider an bid from organisations such as a charitable trust as well as private buyers
A. Yes, but only for the purchase and utilisation of the Manor;
Q. Whether in the current climate the Council is confident that the Manor can be sold
A. The Council is confident that a buyer will be found, some enquiries have already been received since publication of the intention to sell;
Q. Is it likely that the sale could lead to re-development of the site for housing
A. WC will employ a specialist agency to market Urchfont Manor as a country house. It will not be sold for re-development as the site is outside of the designated village development area and the house is a listed building.
During discussion at the subsequent Parish Council meeting it was proposed and agreed that:
The Parish Council will actively support any Charitable Trust or similar organisation to acquire Urchfont Manor with a view to continuing it's adult education role, but that the Council would not be involved in assembling or submitting a business plan for such a bid.
The Parish Council will establish a small liaison group from its members to interact with Wiltshire Council to discuss, negotiate and facilitate the best possible terms for continued use of Oakfrith Wood, the Playing Fields and the Cricket Ground by the community. The Group will seek approval from the full Parish Council before any decisions are finalised. The Group will comprise Nicky Mitchell (Chairman), Peter Newell (Vice Chairman), Dave Mottram and Simon Holt.
29th January 2012 - Dave Mottram set in place the creation of an email distribution list of interested parties in the community to ensure speedy transmission of news updates and other relevant information. This is not an Urchfont Parish Council initiative, but has their support.
30th January 2012 - Having been 'Called In' by Council members, the decision to close Urchfont Manor was reviewed by Wiltshire Council Scrutiny Committee and referred back to the Cabinet to reconsider their decision. The Cabinet subsequently confirmed their decision to close Urchfont Manor but also restated their intention to put in place mechanisms to facilitate ongoing use of facilities by the community and also to undertake a review of the way forward to satisfy adult education requirements in the County.
15th February 2012 - The Parish Council Liaison Group held a very useful meeting with the Wiltshire Council Transformation Director today. As a result of the discussions it was agreed that the Parish Council will prepare a proposal document to submit to Wiltshire Council outlining what the Parish Council would like to achieve in relation to the ongoing use of facilities by the community. This will necessitate consultation with the School, Pre-School, Cricket Club, Friends of Oakfrith Wood and the tenant farmer (John Snook), these consultations have now commenced.
12th March 2012 - Urchfont Parish Council is engaged in ongoing discussions with Wiltshire Council and other interested parties to ensure that appropriate mechanisms are put in place to safeguard facilities (Playing Fields, Cricket Club and Oakfrith Wood) for long term continued use by the Community.
29th April 2012 - There is an e-petition on the Wiltshire Council Website, which is described as follows:
"We the undersigned petition the council to Retain Urchfont Manor as an adult education facility, or support any bid by a purchaser for the property that intends to maintain it as a residential adult education centre. There has been very little public consultation on the proposal to sell Urchfont Manor, please lend your support. This ePetition runs from 29/01/2012 to 31/07/2012.
If you wish to find out more about this petition or sign it please click here.
3rd July 2012 - Wiltshire Council met with representatives of Urchfont Parish Council, Urchfont Primary School, Urchfont Pre-School, Friends of Oakfrith Wood and Urchfont Cricket Club to give an update on decisions that had been made to date with regard to the facilities used by the community, which are currently part of the Urchfont Manor Estate, and to agree a way forward. Briefly:
Playing / Recreation Field - will be EXCLUDED from the sale and will initially continue to used and managed by the Parish Council and Primary School under existing arrangements with Wiltshire Council.
Oakfrith Wood - will be EXCLUDED from the sale and transferred to either the Parish Council or Friends of Oakfrith Wood.
Cricket Club - will be INCLUDED in the sale but agreement in principle has been reached to grant a long term lease to the Parish Council or Cricket Club.
Marketing of Urchfont Manor will now commence in September 2012 allowing more time for local consultation on some issues.
CLICK HERE to see the full notes of this meeting.
September 2012 - The Manor and grounds were closed off to public access with effect 3rd September and are now subject to a round the clock security presence. Marketing of Urchfont Manor effectively began on 12th September 2012; a brochure and dedicated web page have been issued by Knight Frank.
At their meeting on 12th September 2012, the Parish Council received a report on progress to date including status of the consultations with Wiltshire Council on community facilities (Oakfrith Wood, the Cricket Ground and Playing Field). Full minutes of this meeting have been published on Parish Notice Boards and on this Website. To pave the way for and subject to ongoing consultation and negotiation with Wiltshire Council, the prospective owner of Urchfont Manor and the Tenant Farmer, the Parish Council agreed the following ‘in principle’:
- The lease of the Cricket Ground to the Parish Council based on the revised draft Heads of Terms supplied on 12th September; subject to final review and approval of actual lease documentation.
- That the Parish Council is willing to take ownership of a new access pathway from the Playing Field to Oakfrith Wood on the basis of discussions to date and subject to final agreement on terms of transfer.
- To the transfer of ownership of the western end of the Playing Field to the Parish Council, subject to ongoing discussion on boundaries and review of eventual transfer terms and documentation.
It was also agreed:
- To analyse the results of the community facilities access questionnaire distributed to all households in Urchfont (see details under 'News & Views' - deadline for response now 7th October), and use these results to support ongoing discussion and negotiations with Wiltshire Council to secure practical improvements for public safety.
- That the Clerk to the Council should continue to be the Parish Council focus for all interaction / consultation between the Parish Council and Wiltshire Council on all matters associated with Urchfont Manor and the associated community facilities.
October 2012 - The deadline has now passed for receipt of responses to the Community Facilities questionnaire which was distributed to all households in Urchfont in September following the closure of Urchfont Manor grounds. Despite a slow start and with a lot of encouragement by word of mouth, posters, website and Redhorn News reminders, we finally managed a return of around 26% of the number distributed. Many thanks to alI of you who responded.
Analysis of the responses provided a good deal of very useful pedestrian access information and public safety concerns which has now been sent to Wiltshire Council to demonstrate facility usage and in particular the concerns expressed about public safety on access routes. Representatives of the Parish Council intend to meet with Wiltshire shortly to discuss this further and press for improvements (e.g. new pavements, better warning signage, extension of the 30mph zone past Witchell Lane). A few key statistics from the questionnaire responses were that:
48% of people visiting Oakfrith Wood do so with dogs
49% of people visiting Oakfrith do so with Children
86% of people visiting Oakfrith used to go via Urchfont Manor Grounds
63% of people who visit Oakfrith Wood expressed SAFETY concerns about current routes now that the Manor is closed off
94% of people visiting the cricket ground used to go via Urchfont Manor Grounds
96% of people who visit the cricket ground expressed SAFETY concerns about current routes now that the Manor is closed off
25th October 2012 - Knight Frank call for bids from interested parties based on a total estate guide price of £2.7M and with a deadline of midday on 14th November 2012. We are told that there have been over 50 viewings of the Manor to date.
March 2013 - Sale of Urchfont Manor was completed at the end of March 2013 - the new owners are Eleanor Jones and Chris Legg who intend to restore the buildings as a residential property for their own use.