Corngreaves Hall

Corngreaves hall is a local building that has been in the case of Sandwell council for many years. After years of neglect it was in a fun down state and looked like this :

Corngreaves Hall

Worthless Corngreaves Hall

Recently Sandwell council took it upon themselves to give the developers of this site (Corngreaves Hall Ltd) 600m2 of nature reserve as well as other lots of council land. This land was given at a cost of £0 despite protests of local residents.

During arguments with Sandwell council it was discovered that this historic building had not only been given to Corngreaves Hall Ltd, they were in fact given over £900,000 for the privilege of turning this grade two listed building on the edge of a nature reserve into luxury flats. Further planning permission had been granted for further development on the site including a “housing development”.

Despite the shock locally and official complaints from the West Midlands Historic Buildings Trust Sandwell insist that paying to get rid of this historic landmark is the best the council could do and that decisions made over giving further nature reserve away can not be appealed by the public as it is not practical to hold onto public land if a private company requests it for their housing development projects.

Below is some of the correspondence carried out on this subject.

> ,
> My views have changed because I was not aware that the house had been
> given away at a cost of nearly 1 million pounds to the tax payer. You
> speak of GR8 Ltd who maybe involved as a parent company but have no
> liability for this project this projects liability is limited to
> Corngreaves Hall Ltd who appear to have an operating capital of £1, and
> have not yet submitted any accounts.
> I also hope that GR8 Space Ltd and Corngreaves Hall Ltd are both
> successful and provide jobs in the area while completing this project.
> My original email was sent from my iPhone because your notice of intent
> to gift the land was on a pole next to a busy road : you seem to imply
> a political agenda that could not be further from my views.
> I am against waste and I am against high council tax. I am against
> Sandwell giving away property that the average person would believe is
> worth hundreds of thousands of pounds. I am against valuing a building
> and land before planning consent has been considered: because this does
> not realise the true value for the Tax Payer. I am also against a project
> starting then being given even more public land (if it was not viable
> without this land the contract should not have been signed). I am also
> against autocratic decisions being made on the behalf of those that have
> no right of appeal in the matter!
> It is my view that Sandwell Council have failed to realise any value from
> Corngraves Hall and the associated land. I understand your own view that
> limiting Sandwells liability to 1 million pounds is the best value the
> council could achieve. I disagree, it is my view that any average person
> who walked past the site would not accept that Corngreaves Hall with
> planning consent for further housing is worth -1 million. Also I believe
> the average tax payer would not understand why once a project was started
> further land (now as nature reserve) would be gifted away from finite
> amount of public land.
> I have asked James Morris what is to stop the council gifting the entire
> nature to housing development if there is no right of appeal once the
> relevant autocratic decision has been made? I have asked him to look into
> what I consider to be the failure to realise the true value of this site
> and what mechanisms are inplace *

>> I thought it best to comment on the points that you have made in your
>> email. Please note that the Express & Star carried a report on 18 April
>> 2011.
>> As explained previously the Hall is a listed building. It is of great
>> historical value but there is a legal duty for the owner to carry out
>> extensive works. The cost of those repairs exceeded the value of the
>> restored building. The Council had a choice. It could pay for the
>> repairs and keep the building or dispose of the property. The Council
>> had
>> no use for the building so it advertised the property and a private
>> development company, GR8 Space Ltd, that specialises in listed buildings
>> came forward.
>> GR8 Space have an excellent track record. They have chosen to carry out
>> the development using a subsidiary company which has been renamed
>> Corngreaves Hall Ltd. The development scheme was analysed by specially
>> appointed firms of surveyors. I hope that GR8 Space does make a profit
>> on
>> the development, however as in any such scheme, it may make a loss. If
>> the Council had sought to share in any profit it would have been
>> necessary
>> to accept a share in any possible loss. Instead the Council capped its
>> liability to the cost of restoring the Hall to a wind and watertight
>> shell. That has stopped the deterioration of the building and bought it
>> back to an acceptable standard for the purposes of listed building
>> protection. The next stage is to convert the Hall into homes for sale,
>> the costs of that stage will be entirely met by the developer.
>> You ask why the Clanceys site was not given away. It was not a listed
>> building so it was demolished.
>> The Clanceys site has been redeveloped with new apartments and houses.
>> That is a very different development to the large high value character
>> apartments proposed for the Hall. As there has been no development like
>> that nearby it is an unproven location for such a scheme.
>> You originally contacted the Council regarding the proposed transfer of
>> Community Open Space. You said
>> “While everyone welcomes the redevelopment of Corngreaves hall they have
>> not hesitated to fence off and prevent access to paths that have been
>> used
>> by me personally for over 10 years and others for significantly longer.
>> It
>> also appears they have prematurely cordoned off access to the land they
>> wish to purchase / be given. I object strongly to council land being
>> gifted or purchased for future homeowners property value and hope the
>> application will be rejected and the cordoned off land returned to it’s
>> original state for use by Sandwell residents.”
>> Those were the points that you asked to be considered. They were
>> balanced
>> against the case for transferring the land which included the need for
>> secure boundary lines. The temporary fencing was necessary to protect
>> the
>> building site. There are no public footpaths affected by the proposal.
>> Your objection on principle to the disposal of Council land to private
>> individuals is not related to the issue of Community Open Space. The
>> Council has always bought and sold land to suit its requirements. It is
>> not practical to refuse to dispose of land on the grounds that the
>> Council
>> must keep all the land it has ever acquired.
>> —–Original Message—–
>> From:
>> Sent: 12 July 2011 21:18
>> To:
>> Cc:
>> Subject: RE: Corngreaves Hall – Community Open Space
>> Andrew,
>> I appreciate the time taken to respond. I am afraid like other local
>> residents I have spoken to, this entire situation seems at best badly
>> handled, but in reality symptomatic of council waste.
>> Let me Summarise: Corngreaves Hall Ltd a company incorporated on
>> 08/12/2009 and having never submitted any accounts, have not only been
>> given a listed building bordering a nature reserve (to turn into flats)
>> and associated land for a property development, they appear to have been
>> been paid just shy of 1 million pounds (962,627) by the council so that
>> the Grade II listed building will be worth nothing! This development
>> partner (your words) will share the profit from this development 100%
>> for
>> them and 0% for the Tax Payer’s of Sandwell.
>> Further to this arrangement you have now given them more public land
>> (this
>> time, part of the nature reserve) to expand the land that they were
>> given
>> for nothing, and this has been done for the benefit of the Tax Payer’s
>> of
>> Sandwell.
>> (It appears the legal matters mentioned in 1.1 were how to give away
>> nature reserve without the public having a right to appeal?)
>> You say : “…there has been considerable public support for the
>> restoration.”
>> This is at best disingenuous, it is emphatically not the case: Not one
>> local resident who I informed that Corngreaves Hall was “given away” has
>> reacted with anything but shock (unless you count councillors). When
>> they
>> are then informed it appears these “partners” were paid in order to take
>> on this “free” housing development they react with utter disbelief.
>> They
>> do NOT speak positively about the restoration other than in the sense
>> that
>> it is nice to see work finally being carried out after years of council
>> neglect.
>> I want to be clear you say that advice was that the site at Corngreaves
>> Hall was of negative value, why did the Clancies site (less than 100
>> yards
>> away) not get given away? Or the housing development 500 yards away? I
>> enclose a map to show you my utter incredulity at the claim a grade II
>> listed building on a nature reserve with planning permission for a
>> housing
>> development is worthless (as anyone seeing all the ongoing building work
>> would have known).
>> You say “In a difficult property market developers do not want listed
>> buildings in unproven locations”, it could not be closer to a new build
>> site, it is separated by a single carriageway road! (and a second proven
>> “new” site is within ~500yrds).

Corngreaves Hall Land

Worthless Land Vrs Valuable Land

>> I, and everyone I have spoken to, think this entire project reflects
>> very
>> baldy on Sandwell Council. No one I have spoken to thinks it represents
>> any sort of value for the taxpayer and many wonder who the owners of
>> Corngreaves Hall Ltd are and what their relationship with Sandwell
>> Council
>> is.
>> It is my view that the Council has failed in its duty to realise ANY
>> value
>> from Corngreaves Hall and associated land, let alone the maximum value.
>> This lack of vision seems sadly typical of the public sector and
>> symptomatic of why Council Tax has to rise each year. But I am only a
>> taxpayer with no right of appeal or say in the matter of Grade II listed
>> buildings being given away to property developers who then want paying
>> then ask for even more taxpayer land to sweeten the deal (with nature
>> reserve thrown in for good measure).
>> Maybe James Morris (our MP) or our local paper could look into this,
>> because to us proles the whole matter leaves us with a bad taste in the
>> mouth.
>> Nigel Underhill.

* Thanks to the vagaries of of squirrel mail, at this point I sent my mail while still typing it and before editing it.

So if you want £1 million pounds and can take on a Historic Building to turn into flats, come to Sandwell this is how the council do business.

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