Harrogate Council opposition leader Pat Marsh calls for investigation into collapsed deal to sell council's former Crescent Gardens HQ

Harrogate Borough Council has pulled out of a deal to sell its former Crescent Gardens headquarters to developer Adam Thorpe.
Harrogate Borough Council has pulled out of a deal to sell its former Crescent Gardens headquarters to developer Adam Thorpe.

An investigation into the handling of the protracted sale of a North Yorkshire town’s former civic headquarters will be called for by a senior councillor, following the deal’s dramatic collapse after a two-year stalemate.

Coun Pat Marsh, leader of the Liberal Democrats group at Harrogate Borough Council, said a “sensible” buyer must be found to build upon the grandeur of the Crescent Gardens site, after its proposed £75m luxury redevelopment languished for so long.

The council revealed yesterday that it had exercised its right to walk away from the sale to local developer Adam Thorpe.

Coun Marsh said the severance came as no surprise and that “there had been issues around how the council has been informed about the sales process since day one”.

The decision to end an agreement struck up with ATP (Crescent Gardens) Ltd in 2017 was taken after the company failed to meet Friday’s deadline to submit a valid planning application.

Coun Marsh said: “I’m not surprised. I didn’t think this project would ever get off the ground. I’d like an investigation and that’s what I will be calling for, whether that’s into the due processes and diligence or the strength of the contract, I don’t know yet.

“Hopefully we can get a sensible person to purchase Crescent Gardens and build on its grandeur... and whoever comes in respects

it is the civic centre of the town.”

The council’s deputy leader and cabinet member for economic development, Coun Graham Swift, said “allowances” had been made over what was a “complicated” project and so he was disappointed by the deal’s collapse.

Coun Swift said: “It needn’t have come to this, but we cannot ignore repeated false promises and missed deadlines.

“The time has come to take action and to realise the value of this building, not wait further on the off-chance a planning application comes forward.”

- We attempted to contact the developer for comment but did not receive a response.

Long-running saga

The sale of Crescent Gardens has been a long-running affair.

The sale of the building was announced in 2014 as the council consolidated its various buildings into new headquarters at St Luke’s Mount and ATP (Crescent Gardens) Ltd emerged as the preferred purchaser in 2016.

Contracts were exchanged in 2017, with the plans to convert the building into up to 14 apartments priced between £2.5m and £4m, however completion was subject to pre-planning conditions being met ahead of a planning application being submitted.

Last month, developer Adam Thorpe said that he intended to submit a planning application within the next few weeks.