Haringey Council under fire over sale of historic Highgate mansion

A historic mansion sold by Haringey Council last year for �1.65 million is back on the market for �3.5 million.

Angry local residents have accused the council of ‘‘selling off the family silver’’.

Haringey sold the Grade II-listed Morven House in North Hill to a property developer in March last year and after discovering that it is now back on the market for more than double, residents and opposition councillors were up in arms.

They claim that the Grade II-listed building hasn’t been revamped since the council sold it and say the inflated price shows Haringey made a huge mistake.

Michael Hammerson, who is a member of the Highgate Society, said: “Morven House is one of the most prominent mid-19th century buildings in Highgate.

“If it was grossly undervalued when it was put on the market by Haringey, it is scandalous negligence on Haringey’s part.

“It’s a listed building. There are very clear government guidelines about what local authorities should do to sell heritage sites. They are not to be sold for the maximum price but for the most appropriate use.

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“When Haringey sold it the preferred use was for a social dwelling. Now the new owner is trying to make a profit.”

Liberal Democrat councillor Rachel Allison said: “It’s a listed building and it’s a very important part of Highgate’s heritage.

“This is Haringey taxpayers’ money and the council seems to have realised nearly �2million too little for this particular asset. It’s no good banging on about coalition cuts when you can’t keep your own house in order.

“If the council is going to flog off the family silver they need to at least ensure they get the best price for it.”

A spokesman for Haringey Council said: “The council sold the unencumbered freehold interest of Morven House to Magic Homes (now vested in M&S Homes North Limited) in March 2009 for �1.65 million.

“The disposal process started in July 2008 and an informal tender route was decided on, given that the property required extensive refurbishment and repair to bring it up to a habitable condition.

“The property was widely marketed in national publications, such as Estates Gazette in July 2008 and marketing details circulated to all potential purchasers on the council’s database.

“A successful bidder was identified and subsequently pulled out. The council then commissioned an independent formal valuation report which valued the premises with an unencumbered freehold at �1.6 to �1.7 million.

“The council sought best and final bids from those who had already tendered. Two final bids were received being; �1.6 and �1.65 million.

“As these were in line with the formal independent valuation, we proceeded with the higher offer of �1.65 million, being Magic Homes.

“A total of 19 bids were received and contracts for a sale entered into with the highest bidder in line with the independent valuation.

“It is therefore not accurate to say that the council sold the property for less than open market value at the time.”