THE principal person behind controversial plans to redevelop the North Wales Hospital in Denbigh turned down a £1m offer for the site, it has been claimed.
A public inquiry was told that solicitor Ayub Bhailok, whose company paid £310,000 for the property in 2003 before he even saw it, wanted closer to £10m.
Freemont (Denbigh) Limited, the current owners of the former mental hospital which closed in 1996, are appealing against a compulsory purchase order sought by Denbighshire County Council who say the action is needed to preserve the Victorian buildings.
The key issue is whether the authority was justified in stepping in or whether Freemont should have been given more time to pursue its own proposals to redevelop the massive site.
In 2011 the authority, frustrated at the deterioration in the condition of the listed buildings, served an urgent works notice on the British Virgin Islands-based company and then carried out the work by default.
In October last year a public inquiry was held into the council’s claim for the £900,000 to be refunded by Freemont and the Welsh Government’s decision on that is expected within the next three weeks.
Plans for large-scale mixed development have been submitted on behalf of the Prince’s Regeneration Trust, working in conjunction with the council.
If the CPO is confirmed it is proposed that the property should be handed over to the North Wales Buildings Preservation Trust.
Rosaleen Kerslake, chief executive of the Prince’s Regeneration Trust, told the inquiry in Denbigh that she had introduced Mr Bhailok to Lawrence Butler, head of Devington Homes, whose company specialized in restoring old buildings.
She was subsequently told by Mr Butler that he had offered Mr Bhailok £1m plus reimbursement of costs for the entire site.
“This was declined by Mr Bhailok who was looking for a sum nearer to £10m,” she said.
Miss Kerslake said that Mr Bhailok then rejected an offer by Mr Butler for a joint venture.
“His strategy appeared to be to dispose of the enabling sites for maximum value and then seek a solution to the listed buildings,” she said.
Referring to the urgent works carried out by the council, she commented: “I have no doubt that if Denbighshire County Council had not stepped in when it did the important listed buildings at the North Wales Hospital would, as a direct result of the owner’s neglect, quickly have reached a point where they collapsed completely.”
In support of the CPO, Miss Kerslake added: “There is no evidence to suggest that in future the owner would act more responsibly or have a more realistic idea of the value of the site than it has demonstrated in the past.”
The hearing continues.
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