Councillor to ‘occupy one room at Wisbech Castle’- official

Cllr Topgood to live at Wisbech Castle

Cllr Dave Topgood, who spends his time working as a volunteer at Wisbech Castle, has been officially made chairman of the castle management committee. And given a tenancy to live in part of the castle. - Credit: Terry Harris/Wisbech Council

A Wisbech town and Fenland district councillor can finally update his register of interests with his correspondence address – Wisbech Castle. 

Years of wrangling over whether or not Cllr Dave Topgood lived there permanently or just stayed – as the town council had always insisted – on occasions has been settled.  

“Councillor Topgood has been granted by the Wisbech Castle Management Committee a tenancy to occupy one room at Wisbech Castle,” said town clerk Terry Jordan.  

“This assists in his performance of the voluntary caretaker role.” 

Mr Jordan said he also provides “additional security for the building and also generates a rental income for Wisbech Town Council (and, hence, of benefit to the local taxpayers).” 

The town clerk added: “There is no need for the full council to ratify decisions made by the council’s service committees.” 

He said until recently and “as you are already aware” the building had not been suitable “for use as a person’s permanent residence because of the absence of sufficient washing facilities”. 

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Mr Jordan said the work required to address that situation is the installation of a shower.  

“A decision had already been made in July 2019 that the toilet/washing facilities for volunteers at Wisbech Castle be improved,” he added. 

“The work required now accords with that decision.” 

Mr Jordan declined to comment on how much rent Cllr Topgood will pay but it is believed to be around £100 a week inclusive of utility bills.  

“I can, say, however, that the tenancy is subject to a ‘market’ rent,” he said. 

Agreement to allow Cllr Topgood to live there was made at a castle management committee on July 12. 

And on the proposal of Cllr Steve Tierney and seconded by Cllr Billy Rackley, Cllr Topgood was elected chairman of the castle management committee.  

Mr Jordan put forward a report about renting out a room to “generate an income for the council”. 

Cllr Topgood left whilst the five members of the committee present debated Mr Jordan’s proposals, which had been circulated in advance.  

Wisbech mayor Aigars Balsevics held a socially distanced civic tea party at Wisbech Castle. Cllr Dav

2020/21 Wisbech mayor Aigars Balsevics held a socially distanced civic tea party at Wisbech Castle. Cllr Dave Topgood (left) showed some of the guests around the castle vaults. - Credit: Wisbech Council

Minutes show that “members decided, unanimously, on the proposal of Councillor Tierney, seconded by Councillor Rackley, that the information which had been provided by the clerk be noted. 

“And that the proposal, to be operated in the manner suggested by the clerk, be approved; the clerk would liaise with the prospective tenant in relation to works to be undertaken by the landlord and the rent to be paid by the tenant.” 

The decision has angered independent councillor Dave Patrick who argued for two years that Cllr Topgood had already been living there. 

Aerial of Wisbech Castle.
Town Centre , Wisbech
Monday 20 July 2020.
Picture by Terry Harris.

Aerial of Wisbech Castle - Credit: © Terry Harris

“It has long been known that he has been in permanent residence for some years, illegally I may add, although this has been denied,” said Cllr Patrick. 

Cllr Topgood – a previous chairman of the conduct committee of Fenland Council – had lodged, but then withdrew, a complaint against Cllr Patrick. 

Cllr Patrick said he had been informed – officially – that Cllr Topgood had withdrawn the complaint.  

“It has been about who is living at the castle,” said Cllr Patrick. “I would have still pursued the issue of whether someone was living in the castle whoever it may have been.” 

He said: “It's not about the person but the fact that a public building is being mis-used by an individual at great cost to the local Council Tax payer for use of utilities such as gas and electricity which for a building supposedly not in use has been astronomical.” 

Councillors Dave Patrick (right) and Philip Wing denied access to Wisbech Castle. Picture; D PATRICK

Councillors Dave Patrick (right) and former councillor Philip Wing denied access to Wisbech Castle. They made an aborted attempt to visit the castle in 2020 to check reports if anyone lived there. - Credit: Archant

Cllr Patrick said Cllr Topgood had had a number of addresses since leaving a housing association tenancy two years ago - “including living in a house owned by a former councillor”. 

Cllr Topgood told the castle committee that the building had been closed to the public for most of this year primarily because of the pandemic.   

Newly appointed volunteer caretaker and nightwatchman at Wisbech Castle, Dave Topgood at the Gneera

Volunteer caretaker and nightwatchman at Wisbech Castle, Dave Topgood at the Gneeral Election Count with MP Steve Barclay. - Credit: Archant

Cllr Patrick added: “You would think with what happened to the county council and farmgate, any council would think twice about letting a councillor live in a council owned asset.”