A group opposing the sale of North Yorkshire’s Grade II listed former police headquarters to an outdoor education firm says the plans risk destroying village life in the Conservation Area near the site.
Newby Wiske Action Group says crime commissioner Julia Mulligan ought to have taken into account the effect on local residents, such as a potential fall in house prices, before agreeing to sell historic Newby Wiske Hall to PGL Travel Ltd.
On Friday, Mrs Mulligan will be quizzed by a scrutiny committee over her decision-making process before she decided to sell the site five miles south of Northallerton so that North Yorkshire Police could move to more modern headquarters. She says fears of a fall in house prices nearby are hard to prove.
Hambleton council’s planning committee is expected to rule next month on the proposals, which involve converting existing buildings for use by pupils and teachers on school trips so they can take part in adventure activities and excursions.
The changes to the site include a new coach passing place, a lake extension and facilities including giant swings, zip wires, an archery area and four-sided abseil and climbing towers.
The building was sold to PGL subject to contract, meaning the firm will not take ownership of it until planning permission is granted. North Yorkshire Police has already moved to Alverton Court, the former Rural Payments building.
Announcing the decision to sell to PGL in March, Mrs Mulligan said that by handing the site to the firm she “knew that she would be leaving the Grade II-listed country home in good hands”.
David Stockport, spokesman for the Newby Wiske Action Group, which opposes the development, has written to the North Yorkshire Police and Crime Panel ahead of its meeting on Friday.
The group fears the proposals could have a damaging impact on the neighbouring village, which has extra planning protections in place to maintain its character by virtue of being a Conservaton Area.
He said: “We believe that the Police and Crime Commissioner has failed in her duty to apply the principles of ‘Value for Money’ as dictated by the Treasury when she agreed the sale of the hall and grounds.
“The PCC repeatedly states that her only interest in achieving the sale was to obtain the highest value for all of the people of North Yorkshire.
“The principles of VFM dictate that many factors ought to have been taken into account including the effect of the decision on local residents, house prices etc. but these issues have been ignored in favour of a sale at any price.
“That price appears to be the destruction of village life in a village that is a Conservation Area.
“The Police and Crime Panel are the body set up to scrutinise the actions of the PCC and we are calling upon them to exercise their powers to criticise the way this sale has been handled.
“We recognise that the panel have no influence over the planning process but they have a duty to hold the PCC to account for her actions.”
Prior to the meeting, Mrs Mulligan answered a number of questions from the panel in writing. These include whether any consideration was given to the potential fall in house prices.
She replied: “It is not known whether this is accurate, would be difficult to evidence and certainly challenging to link directly to the sale of the site to PGL.
“It was not envisaged that the sale to PGL would have an impact on house prices, and it would be very surprising if that was the case, and certainly not perceived that the sale to PGL would have any more or less detrimental effect on house prices than a sale to any other company/organisation.”
She said she was not aware of the full detail of PGL’s plans until a planning application for the site was produced, adding: “Specific planning matters are for the local authority to consider.”
PGL declined to comment.