Thorpeness: Questions over windmill sale

SUFFOLK County Council is facing questions over why it sold off a coastal landmark and tourist attraction for less than half its guide price.

Thorpeness Windmill, which had been publicly-owned for more than 30 years, was put on the market in the summer with an estimated price tag of �150,000.

Its sale was completed in November, but it was not disclosed at the time how much for and who had bought it.

It has now emerged the windmill, which dates back to the early 19th Century, was sold for just �72,100.

It comes at a time when the council is trying to save millions of pounds and proposing cuts to services.

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Critics have questioned the wisdom of selling off a key asset for such a price.

But the new owners said they had paid a “fair” price for the windmill – which they said was in very poor working order.

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The mill went up for sale in early June. It was sold to Sharlie and Philip Goddard, from Royston, Herts, who are hoping to restore it and turn it into a family business with community events.

They offered �72,100 after a survey showed the windmill was in poor order and needed significant restoration work. One other bidder – who met the guide price – pulled out after seeing the property.

A spokeswoman for the council said: “It was disappointing not to receive any bids closer to the guide price. However, Thorpeness Windmill was sold to the highest bidder at open market value.”

Chris Moody, who handled the sale for Savills, said: “The property was comprehensively exposed to the market and there was substantial interest. But the harsh reality is that was the best offer.

“I think it’s a stunning result. I’ve heard of some windmills being given away. It is an ongoing liability as it is a listed building – and is that prudent with the public purse?”

But Andrew Cann, spokesman for finance on the opposition Liberal Democrat and Independent group on the council, said: “The county council needs to be careful it is not conducting a fire sale.

“At a time when it is telling us we are short of money it would seem unfortunate at best to be selling an asset at half the value estate agents have said it is worth.”

Philip Dawes, who runs a holiday cottage business in Thorpeness, said: “The windmill belonged to the council so it was their asset – and once it’s gone, it’s gone.”

THE new owners of Thorpeness Windmill plan to restore the landmark to its former glories.

Philip and Sharlie Goddard said they were hugely enthusiastic about the project and were planning to spend more than �100,000 on restoration.

They said their offer for the mill was accepted because the council were made aware of how much work was needed to get the listed building back in shape.

“I don’t believe they could have squeezed another penny out of it,” said Mr Goddard.

The couple said they were shocked the historic building had been allowed to fall into disrepair.

Mr Goddard, 50, a vet, and Mrs Goddard, 45, an interior designer and businesswoman, spend their summers in Thorpeness with their three children and own a neighbouring property.

Mrs Goddard said: “The exterior woodwork needs replacing and it will cost a six-figure sum getting it back in working order – something the council was reluctant to do.

“When it has been repaired, I am hoping to re-open to the public. But it will only be on certain days as it has been before.

“I would also love to run a small art gallery in the windmill, maybe a tea room, and also hold poetry reading afternoons and children’s story time – subject to the listing of the windmill and the council. We may charge a small fee or ask for contributions to help pay for the renovations and for the ongoing upkeep.”

She added: “For about the last eight years we have been watching the windmill fall apart, which was heartbreaking.

“We love Thorpeness and the windmill – we want to do our very best for both.”

Mr Goddard added: “The windmill had been allowed to get into a very poor state.

“The council would not spend any more money to keep the windmill going.”

THORPENESS Windmill was originally built in 1803 as a cornmill in nearby Aldringham.

The structure was owned by the Ogilvie family.

The windmill was dismantled in the winter of 1922 and rebuilt at Thorpeness, the holiday village devised by Glen Ogilvie in the early 20th Century, to supply water to the House in the Clouds, a water tower and unusual home.

It filled this role until 1940, when an engine was installed to do the job.

The mill was badly damaged by storms and a fire in the 1970s and Suffolk Coastal District Council, Thorpeness Estate and the Countryside Commission granted money in 1975 to enabled the mill to be restored. Suffolk County Council bought the mill from the Thorpeness Estate in 1977. It was open to the public on selected days in the summer and used as an information point for a coastal heritage trail.

The single-storey roundhouse and the four Patent sails are carried on a cast iron windshaft. The brake wheel drives a three throw pump which pumped water from a well 28ft (8.53m) deep to water tanks housed in the House in the Clouds.

The mill could pump 1,800 imperial gallons (8,200l) per hour and is winded by a six-bladed fantail mounted on the ladder.

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