Harrogate Borough Council chasing debts as developer who failed in Crescent Gardens plan hits back

The future of Crescent Gardens remains in doubt.
The future of Crescent Gardens remains in doubt.

The man who failed in his £75 million bid to redevelop Crescent Gardens has hit out at Harrogate Borough Council with an extraordinary list of new claims.

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Flamboyant Harrogate-based property developer Adam Thorpe’s plans to convert the historic former council headquarters into multi-million pound luxury apartments foundered in April when a frustrated council pulled the plug after waiting for nearly three years for his plans to be submitted.

But, in a strongly-worded statement to the Harrogate Advertiser, Adam Thorpe of ATP (Crescent Gardens) Ltd has hit back, claiming:

* He remains committed to restoring both the building and the area of the former council headquarters;

* Despite what was said when the council terminated the contract earlier in the year, he claims he did submit the planning documents in time to meet deadlines;

* He does not owe £30,000 in rent to Harrogate Borough Council but will pay it as “a gesture of goodwill” once he either submits a planning application or purchases the building which he expects to be shortly.

* He says his company has spent more than £1,050,000 on the scheme.

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Harrogate Borough Council, which is now remarketing the property for a new commercial buyer, rejects all Mr Thorpe’s claims and says it will keep on pursuing his company for the rental debt for the time he was based in Crescent Gardens.

Before ending the contract it had exchanged in March 2017 with of ATP (Crescent Gardens), it had become increasingly frustrated by Mr Thorpe’s failure to meet his own timetable on the project.

In 2017 Mr Thorpe had said he hoped to apply for planning permission “within the next few weeks. He also claimed he expected work to start on site in summer 2017 ready for completion in 2020.

In fact, it took until October 2018 for Mr Thorpe’s firm to apply for the lease from the council to make use of the public spaces, which was only a basic part of the pre-planning application conditions.

Leader of Harrogate Borough Council, Coun Richard Cooper said: “The council was keen to conclude the sale of Crescent Gardens to Mr Thorpe on the terms and deadlines agreed.

Unfortunately those terms and deadlines were not adhered to.

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“We have, therefore, re-marketed and there is strong interest. We look forward to receiving the rent Mr Thorpe owes the council taxpayer - a debt which is currently with our recovery team.”

Mr Thorpe says he will pay the nearly £30,000 rent he owes once he has “bought the building shortly.”

He issued the new statement after the Harrogate Advertiser passed on the results of a Freedom of Information Act request which showed he still owed the council £29,687.67 for rental of rooms within Crescent Gardens.

Criticising Harrogate Borough Council in blunt terms, Mr Thorpe said: “The small amount being claimed by their legal department at this time adds to the lack of commercial common sense the council have shown throughout this process. As a gesture of goodwill we have agreed to pay the amount once we either submit planning or purchase the building which we expect to be shortly.”

Having exchanged contracts in March 2017 with ATP amid talk of £75 million plans for luxury apartments at the former council headquarters, the council announced in April after a series of delays that it had it ended the legal agreement after it said ATP failed to submit a planning application in time.

The council is now in the process of remarketing the property for a new commercial buyer, despite complaints from some in Harrogate that Crescent Gardens should be used for the public good.

A spokesperson for the council said this week that it intended to recover the monies owed to it in rent but did not wish to comment on the situation with Mr Thorpe and Crescent Gardens.

The spokesperson said: “We are pursuing the rental debt with ATP (Crescent Gardens) Ltd and can make no further comment at this stage.”

But Mr Thorpe denies he failed to meet any deadlines, blaming the council for being “obstructive.”

Mr Thorpe said: “The planning documents were submitted and planning fee requested before 4pm on April 5, 2019. An extension was requested for the Design & Access statement to be submitted.

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“This was refused on the afternoon of April 5 and a press release sent out by the council on the morning of Monday, April 8. I have not dealt with an organisation before that have been so obstructive to progress on the sale of their own asset.

“It seems now that they have made a mistake in doing this as the level of interest has not been at the level it was when we originally bid.

”We are assessing the situation and our planning submission with subsequent proposed purchase. We are still committed to restoring both the building and the area as per our plans.”

At the time the contract was terminated, Harrogate Borough Council’s deputy leader Coun Graham Swift said: “I’m disappointed that we’ve had to pull the contract. It needn’t have come to this, but we cannot ignore repeated false promises and missed deadlines.”