Friday, May 16, 2014
Residents and councillors have blasted church bosses for putting the disused Harpford Hall on the open market - jeopardising its future as a community asset.
According to Newton Poppleford and Harpford Parish Council, the Diocese of Exeter has more than tripled the asking price of the venue after putting it up for sale.
The building is owned by the church but it has gone unused for the last 18 months, to the frustration of villagers and groups.
The council says it offered to step in and lease the property last year but, after realising renovation costs would exceed its budget, offered to buy the hall for £30,000.
Taxpayer cash totalling £12,000 and £10,000 in rural aid grants means £22,000 has been spent on the hall’s upkeep since 1987 according to the council.
But residents and councillors were left stunned after they said the church declined their offer and opted to sell the hall for a guide price of £97,000.
Resident Val Ranger, who also sits on the parish council, said: “We are bewildered why the hall has been taken away without wider consultation.”
A parish council spokesman said the decision was a ‘great shame’, and such a ‘high-handed attitude’ from a Christian organisation was a ‘disaster’.
A Diocesan spokesman said they have ‘been working with the local community for the past two years’ to try and ‘find a way forward for Harpford Hall’.
The spokesman added: “In 2012, the parish council was offered the hall at a fraction of the price it would fetch on the open market when sold with unrestricted use, and also offered the lease of the hall at a very low rate to enable it to be kept as a community resource.
“After initially wanting to move forward to lease the hall, the parish council withdrew from this in February this year.
“As the church in Harpford has said it has no use for the hall, the Diocese has been obliged to place it on the open market.”