High Court judge delivers his findings in trial surrounding the future of Wigan's historic Haigh Hall
The decision by Wigan Council chiefs to use a break notice in its lease with the operator of Haigh Hall Hotel was valid, a High Court judge has ruled.
Judge David Hodge QC also found Scullindale Global Ltd was in breach of the lease when it failed to give up vacant possession of the historic building in November 2019.
His judgements were published on Thursday morning following a trial lasting more than two weeks involving Wigan Council and Scullindale.
He said: "For followers of Wigan Warriors, I would adjudge the final score to be in the order of 20-6 to the council. (Followers of Warrington Wolves may have reason to recall that score.) For followers of the Latics (Wigan Athletic FC to the incognisant) the score is probably in the order of 4-1 to the council."
Judge Hodge QC continued: "I would invite the parties to consider whether the terms of this judgment may assist them in coming to some form of sensible accommodation over the future of Haigh Hall.
"The world has changed considerably since the cabinet first resolved to determine the lease on August 29, 2019. The Covid pandemic means that the council will have to pay Scullindale over a million pounds more than Haigh Hall is presently worth when it comes to vacate the property.
"Scullindale has delivered a first-class hotel and wedding and events venue in an appropriately, and splendidly, restored and refurbished Grade II* listed building.
"It has become clear during the course of this trial that there are tensions between the ability to operate the hall successfully and profitably and maintaining unrestricted public access to its grounds which IHL and the council will need to address but which they are likely to find difficult to resolve. Even at this late hour, the council may feel that permitting Haigh Hall Hotel Limited to operate the hotel business and act as a buffer between itself and the public, but with more clearly defined, but restricted, rights of public access, may prove to be a sensible, and more cost-effective, way forward.
"If the parties so wish, I am prepared to allow them time for negotiations in advance of the next hearing."
Wigan Council welcomed the judge's findings, with a spokesman saying: "Following a 12-day trial to recover possession of Haigh Hall, the judge has today delivered his verdict, ruling in favour of Wigan Council.
“We are delighted with the verdict and the contents of the judgement which praised the conduct of council officers and dismissed the defendants’ allegations of an orchestrated campaign against them.
“In terms of next steps, the current lease has ended and possession will be returned to the council. A hearing will take place in a few weeks to agree the finer details, including possession date and financial arrangements.”
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