EXCLUSIVE: Council’s £1 million valuation of former St Austell pub “did not include a survey”

Posted By on 20th February 2023

By Graham Smith

Cornwall Council paid £1.016 million for the former General Wolfe pub in St Austell without a survey, County Hall has confirmed.  A subsequent valuation said the building is worth only £250,000.

Instead, a cursory inspection by a council valuer on 28th March 2019 was sufficient to purchase the property which officials wanted to improve to a standard which would make it suitable for 13 flats.  You can download the council’s four page redacted valuation report here:  Valuation Report Redacted

But further inquiries by Corserv, just 12 months later, found the building was in such poor condition that it would cost another £728,077 to bring it up to standard.  You can download the 288-page surveyor’s report commissioned by Corserv here:  Currie & Brown Report

The redacted valuation report says:  “The inspection carried out by the valuer does not constitute a building survey and the valuer takes no responsibility regarding the integrity of the structure of the building and any inaccessible parts and latent defects, including rot and inherently dangerous or unsuitable materials and techniques.

“No site survey (including survey of engineering features and structures) has been carried out; therefore no consideration as regards to site stability has been made.”

The valuation report was written on 2nd July 2019.  The identity of the council’s valuation agent has been redacted, but the person holds a qualification from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.

“The valuer who has undertaken the above valuation report has sufficient current local knowledge of the relevant market, is suitably qualified and has the skills and understanding to undertake the valuation competently,” says the valuation form.

The former General Wolfe pub, St Austell - still derelict after all these years

The purchase was never reported to any council committee, or the council’s cabinet.  The FOI answer says the transaction was governed by “shareholder consent” – by which Corserv and council officials alone decide what is to happen, without democratic scrutiny by elected councillors.

The huge write-down in value was noticed only when Launceston councillor John Conway, a member of the audit committee, carried out his own inquiries at Companies House and identified the anomaly in Corserv’s accounts.

Two weeks ago the council said it bought the property "after an approach" from the former owner.

The council has now revived its ambition to turn the property into residential flats, using money from the government’s devolution deal.  The government has said the money does not need to be repaid in the event that Cornwall rejects the idea of having a mayor.


This article has 2 comments

  1. Are there grounds for an official complaint to be made to the Devon and Cornwall Police Authority in this matter? The circumstances of this “deal” appear to be somewhat dubious.

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