Wigan Council to pay £4.9m as date is set for Haigh Hall to return to its ownership
Wigan’s historic Haigh Hall will return to the control of the local authority within weeks, after a ruling by a High Court judge.
During a hearing held remotely today, Judge David Hodge QC said hotel operator Scullindale Global Ltd should hand vacant possession of the hall, along with its fixtures and fittings, to Wigan Council by 1pm on Friday, June 18.
By the end of banking hours that day, the council must transfer £4.9m to the firm - the market value of Haigh Hall Hotel plus £920,000 for the fixtures and fittings.
Judge Hodge QC ruled Scullindale should pay 100 per cent of the council’s costs from the court case, with an interim payment of £270,000 to cover 90 per cent of the approved budgeted costs.
He agreed to a request for costs to be increased from the approved budget, after the trial lasted longer than expected and more costs were incurred.
Judge Hodge QC said he would have ordered Scullindale to pay 80 per cent of the council’s costs, if an offer had not been made by the local authority to settle the case in January.
As a result of refusing this offer, the firm had secured an extra £84 for Haigh Hall but had been landed with its own increased legal bill as well as the council’s.
It brings to an end the controversial deal made by town hall chiefs for the building, which was constructed between 1827 and 1844 by the seventh Earl of Balcarres, to be converted into Haigh Hall Hotel.
But people living in the borough were unhappy with the way the site was operated and campaign group Friends of Haigh Hall Heritage and Open Access for All highlighted issues with access to the surrounding land.
Concerns were raised about work on the building and the council decided to use a break notice in 2019, stating Scullindale had not met a “milestone” in May 2018 by which time certain work should have been done.
The local authority took the case to court when Scullindale did not leave the building, arguing it was entitled to terminate the lease and reacquire the hall at market value.
The hotel operators, along with director Amir Madani and Craig Baker, from Haigh Hall Hotel Ltd, disputed this, claiming work had been done in accordance with planning permission and it was operating as a four-star hotel.
But after a trial lasting 12 days and several weeks of deliberation, Judge Hodge QC found in favour of the council earlier this year.
He said the authority’s use of the break notice was valid and that Scullindale was in breach of the lease when it failed to give up vacant possession of the historic building in November 2019.
However, he dismissed the claim against Mr Baker and Mr Madani.
It has not yet been revealed what will happen to Haigh Hall once it is transferred back to the council’s control.
A council spokesman said: “Wigan Council continues to assess options regarding the future of Haigh Hall and fully recognises its importance as a cherished heritage asset.
“Further updates regarding plans for its future use will be developed and shared as part of the widespread engagement programme with residents and visitors that is taking place.”
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