National Trust accused of 'fire sale' of community buildings near Derbyshire's Hardwick Hall
The National Trust has been accused of launching a ‘fire sale’ of historic community buildings a stone’s throw from the turrets of Hardwick Hall.
Trust bosses have already sold the Mission Chapel at Hardstoft and will now auction off the old Stainsby School to ‘the highest bidder’.
The Victorian building had been been earmarked as the ‘last possible site’ for a community hub serving this rural area of Derbyshire and the move has come under fire from parish councillors and trustees of the Stainsby Festival.
Coun Tony Trafford, chair of the arts festival and a member of Ault Hucknall Parish Council, said he was ‘furious’ about it.
"The parish council was promised a long time ago by the National Trust that it would work in partnership to establish a community hub for the hamlets,” Coun Trafford said.
"The trust has done nothing for nine years, during which the building has deteriorated.
"Despite overtures from the parish council, nothing has happened and now we have discovered they are going to sell to the highest bidder.”
The National Trust has defended its decision, which it says ‘will enable us to continue to protect and preserve’ Hardwick Hall for ‘generations to come’.
The chapel and school are both located on the Hardwick estate – which covers a mostly rural area of farmland and hamlets surrounding the 16th Century Elizabethan former home of Bess of Hardwick.
"The National Trust owns all the land, including the farms, and it has been a long-held ambition to create a community hub,” Coun Trafford said.
“They are the richest charity in the country but they are refusing to accept a reasonable offer from the parish council, which would also benefit another charity in the Stainsby Festival.
"This is the last possible site for a community hub and the trust’s stance is very sad.
"It also means the Stainsby Festival will be homeless as we used it as a base.”
Dr Hugh Ellis, a trustee of the festival, which is a music and arts event held on fields overlooking Hardwick Hall, said the move amounted to a ‘fire sale’.
"This decision represents a new low point for a national organisation that should be the guardian of all of our heritage,” he added in an article on the festival’s website.
A National Trust spokesperson said: “In 2019, the National Trust at Hardwick conducted a thorough review of vacant buildings.
"As part of this review the decision was made to sell the former Stainsby School, which has been vacant with no defined use for a number of years.
“We can confirm that the property has now been put on the market and, as agreed with our professional advisors, it is being sold by public auction on October 14, 2021.
“As a charity, and in line with the Charity Act, it is our responsibility to ensure we achieve the best possible outcome from the sale.
"All proceeds will enable us to continue to protect and preserve the Elizabethan Hardwick Hall, gardens and grounds for generations to come."