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Morven House sale secrecy

PUBLISHED: 13:12 29 January 2009 | UPDATED: 15:52 07 September 2010

Tan Parsons A VEIL of secrecy surrounds the future of a Georgian mansion in Highgate which neighbours fear may be turned into private flats. Grade II-listed Morven House in North Hill was put on the market by Haringey Council in July. Contracts have been

Tan Parsons

A VEIL of secrecy surrounds the future of a Georgian mansion in Highgate which neighbours fear may be turned into private flats.

Grade II-listed Morven House in North Hill was put on the market by Haringey Council in July. Contracts have been exchanged with a mystery bidder, with completion due next month.

Despite calls for transparency from community leaders, council bosses have kept plans for the former hostel closely guarded.

Highgate Society chairman Gordon Forbes said: "Haringey should have asked the community what they would like to happen to Morven House, but have not.

"Several bids were received by the council but they have played it very close to their chest and have not divulged what the bids were or what they were for."

He fears the council will sell the building to the highest bidder and that it could be turned into flats - which would increase the need for parking in an area where road space is already cramped.

"There just isn't the space to turn this into a block of flats," said Mr Forbes. "It's a fine building but its value is limited because it sits on the main road with a zebra crossing just outside and there is very limited parking in front.

"It was at this crossing where we lost one of our most senior members - Lady Joan Neale."

Michael Hammerson, a colleague, said the society was not against Haringey selling the building. "We think the best use would be for it to be occupied by a single, probably rather well-heeled family," he said. "Otherwise it would create a lot of parking stress in the area.

"We've asked for a meeting with council officers to discuss the future of the house but we have had no response. It shows contempt for the electorate."

Liberal Democrat councillor for Highgate Neil Williams said the council must stop operating in such a "clandestine" manner.

"I've told the council I'm not happy they are selling off the family silver in Highgate," he added.

"There needs to be consultation with local groups and it is not acceptable that the council carries on in a secret way without people being aware of what's happening."

Councillor Charles Adje, Haringey Council's resources boss, said Morven House was being sold in line with government guidance on the disposal of historic buildings.

"Our priority is providing decent services to residents rather than spending money on buildings that are surplus to requirements," he said.

"Any plans for the building will be subject to detailed planning consideration and public consultation."

Squatters moved into Morven House in the summer but were turfed out after a few days. Previously, the building was used as a hostel for homeless and vulnerable people.

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