A SPAT has erupted between East Meon Parish Council and the Petersfield museum over a decision to place a cherished village building for tender on the open market. The Old Forge on the village High Street forms part of the bequest to the museum in the will of late long-standing village resident and benefactor Freddie Stanfield. But the museum's decision to place the building on the property market – where it is listed as an "investment opportunity" by Petersfield estate agent Jacobs and Hunt – and the handling of the matter has angered villagers. In a letter drafted to the Petersfield museum curator Sara Sadler, parish council chairman Alan Redpath outlined his concerns. "Although we cannot dispute your legal right to sell the Old Forge on the open market, we do take great exception that your decision to do so was taken without the courtesy of any prior dialogue with, or notice to, our parish. "While we can understand the financial motivation to raise cash, your intentions have resulted in a deep sense of outrage within our parish as it is felt that your actions are a gross betrayal of both the spirit and intention of this bequest to the Petersfield museum," the letter said. Mr Redpath told the Herald: "We are not out to attack the Petersfield Museum, they have acted correctly and legally, but one has to say we are a museum and they could have approached the village. "By putting the forge on the market as an investment opportunity, people have got excited about it as the Old Forge is a landmark building. "I find it strange that it is listed as such, as the development potential is severely limited – it's situated on a corner, so you won't get planning permission for anything, so in one sense it is self preserving," he added, before revealing the parish council's intention to see the building listed. Vaughan Clarke, chairman of Petersfield museum, was philosophical on the matter, adding: "There are three issues here – we are trustees and as a charity we are not allowed to give away sites at knock- down prices. "We don't want to manage a property at a distance, and we don't want to harm East Meon," he said. "When Freddie Stanfield died, he left the museum a residual amount of £1.4m – quite a considerable amount of money. "He had bought the forge to stop it being converted into housing, and wanted it to be a village business, and to ensure that he put a tenant into it on a lease of 25 years. "Obviously the executors of the will will find it a hassle to sell the property with a sitting tenant, so they gave us £1.35m and the forge passed over to us. "Consequently, the museum committee is sitting here with the money and an outside property with a sitting tenant getting rent on a regular basis. "The will said to sell all property and for the money to go to the museum, and we decided to sell by tender rather than highest bidder, as we were advised this was the best way to do this. "If the village comes up with an offer, as a museum we haven't necessarily got to take the highest offer and as a responsible body we will take the offer that fits in best with the wishes of area, but it has got to be a reasonable offer," he added.
Disappointment at sale of cherished Old Forge
Friday 1st February 2008 12:00 am