Thursday, 9 June 2011

News - Restoration staff at stately home lose jobs because of dispute (Wentworth)

AS hundreds of people are eagerly sending in their CVs for jobs being created by the proposed redevelopment of Wentworth Woodhouse, the stately home’s existing staff are being laid off.

Up to eight people who have been working to restore the 18th Century, Grade I listed property, near Barnsley, are faced with redundancy.

The decision has been made because restoration work remains on hold pending the outcome of a compensation battle between owners, the Newbold family, and the Coal Authority, over mining subsidence.

It is hoped 1,500 jobs could be created by ambitious £200 million plans by the Newbolds to turn to the property into a museum, hotel and conference venue - dependent on receiving the Coal Authority money.

Giles Newbold, son of architect Clifford Newbold, who bought the estate for £1.5 million in 1999, said: “We have been trying to find a future for Wentworth Woodhouse since we purchased the house. Restoration work was going very well until movement started to be noticed in 2005.

“The movement not only affected most of the main house but also the other buildings and grounds.

“Under the law if repair work is carried out on areas affected by mining subsidence you will severely jeopardise your claim.

“This meant that we had to stop restoration work on most of the site and grounds.”

Mr Newbold said the team of staff had taken ‘many years to put together’ and the family had been trying to retain them until the dispute over the subsidence was resolved but work had now dried up.

He added: “We decided we would try and retain the staff while the ongoing dispute with the Coal Authority was resolved. The restoration of the State Rooms had been the next big project but because of movement, this had to be put on hold and other smaller jobs dotted around the property had to be found.

“The first formal claim for mining subsidence was in 2007 and after years of discussions and legal proceedings we are no nearer an answer.

“After so many years of not being able to restore the State Rooms we have run out of sensible work for the men to do.

“With the present stance of the Coal Authority we cannot see when we are likely to be able to restart work.

“This has forced us to look at making redundancies. We shall continue to do all we can to avoid the need for job losses but in the present situation this is proving very difficult.”

The staff were given 90 days’ notice of redundancy.

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