Villagers raise concerns after no trust set up six years since £1 million estate was left to Upwell
PUBLISHED: 17:53 23 January 2019 | UPDATED: 10:19 24 January 2019
A parish council has raised concerns over delays in settling the proceeds a £1 million estate left to support the village.
Edith Blunt, in her late 80s, of Upwell, died in December 2012 and her house and two building plots in St Peters Road were sold shortly after.
It was Miss Blunt’s wishes that a charitable trust be set up to support the village with the expected £1m from her estate.
Wisbech accountant Tony Davies became the executor of the will and a probate was granted in May 2013.
But it was not until August of last year that Mr Davies told Upwell Parish Council that a “list of potential trustees had been drawn up” and that letters were to be sent out “in the next two weeks” asking if they wanted to become trustees.
The council said they were not aware of any letters being sent to those interested.
Mr Davies has now told this newspaper that Miss Blunt’s house was put on the market at the price included for probate but proved difficult to sell for over two years – leaving probate at a “considerably less value”.
He said the assets and savings from the house were quickly realised.
“An auction was held of her household chattels and this money quickly received,” he said.
“After this it has been a long hard effort to realise the rest of her estate.”
Problems with the condition of the house saw it sold below the asking the price and it took two and half years to sell.
There were issues surrounding planning to get permission for building plots.
It took until December 2017 for the affordable homes agreement to be signed and then work could begin, he said.
“The figures given for probate and to Upwell Parish Council were based on the best values available for property at that time,” said Mr Davies.
“To achieve that result was going to take a tremendous amount of time, work and effort.
“I am aware that several local organisations are seeking funds for their projects and it will be a difficult task for the trustees to decide who should receive monies and how much.”
He added: “Discussions have taken place with a few potential trustees of the Blunt Charitable Trust and this should be up and running shortly.
“Although it has taken six years to reach this stage, I hope to move on with the formation of the Blunt Charitable Trust in the near future with trustees who have the best interests of the people and organisations of the village of Upwell.”
Andrew Harrison, 54, has been one of those concerned by the delays in getting up to date information.
Mr Harrison added that he knew of at least four people who had expressed an interest in becoming a trustee, but they had received nothing in writing.
Upwell Parish Council has queried the “delay” in the process of setting up the trust, with their last point of contact with Mr Davies being in August 2018.
In a statement issued in the parish newsletter on August 24 last year, Mr Davies wrote: “After a very long time I am pleased to report that all of the assets of the estate have now been sold except for the land and car park of the old orchard behind the house.
“After talking to several people that I know in the village I have drawn up a list of potential trustees. Letters are being sent out in the next two weeks asking them if they will be prepared to become trustees.”
The Community Magazine in autumn 2017 stated that when the remaining plots had sales completed that the trust would be set up and a repayment of the loan “above the amount loaned”.
Mr Harrison added: “Residents are annoyed, there are community groups who would like some of this money to go towards their projects and things like the pavilion showers need to be fixed.
“The probate for her will was granted in May 2013 - we just want to know what is going on.”
The full statement from Tony Davies is as seen below:
I was appointed executor to Edith Blunt who died in December 2012.
The value of her estate from probate was given as £1145297, but to realise that value many steps had to be taken.
In arriving at the value professional valuers were employed to advise on values of property and the best way forward. The house and a reasonable part of her garden and land was within the village boundary and would benefit from some of the assets being disposed of with planning permission.
Everything was valued on this basis.
The cash assets and savings were quickly realised. An auction was held of her household chattels and this money quickly received. After this it has been a long hard effort to realise the rest of her estate.
Her house was put on the market at the price included for probate. Interest was very good initially, but after the first survey found that there was an element of settlement in one corner, it became very difficult to sell.
The interest also reduced and the property was not sold until June 2015, some two and a half years after she died, at a price considerably less than probate value. Planning permission was then granted for two building plots on frontage of St Peters Rd.
This had been delayed due to discussions about the entrance display to ensure that there was no danger to approaching vehicles. One was sold in April 2016 and the second in March 2017.
In the meantime discussions had taken place on how best to realise the full potential of building plots on the land behind the main house.
We needed some land from the next door neighbour to get the most value for these plots. By agreement with them we put in planning applications for 25 houses and this included five building plots owned by the Blunt estate.
We could not get five building plots for the estate without this extra land.
The planners, after many meetings, including one which I had to attend at Kings Lynn, finally granted the planning permission in January 2016. The planning permission included the building of a roadway and five affordable houses and a play area. It was then necessary to find a builder to build the 5 affordable house and a Housing Association to buy them.
Neither were very easy to find but in the end we did find them. Part of the planning restriction was that we could only sell 10 of the plots before the five affordable houses were complete. We did get this increased to 15 but it still delayed the sales process.
The contract for the affordable houses was finally signed by all parties in December 2017 and work then commenced on them.
Plot sales were very good and we quickly disposed of the original 10 plots. This included the five Blunt estate plots and the five plots were completed in Spring 2018. On the extension to 15 plots, the extra five were then marketed and they started to sell. This is in the summer of 2018.
The five affordable houses have been completed in January 2019 and are in the process of being handed over to the Housing Association. The last five plots have now been sold and their completion is imminent.
A company was set up to build the roadway. The road requires all properties to be completed before its top surface is added and then taken over by the highways department. Funds for the roadway were obtained from the estate at a rate of interest far better than could be obtained from any savings provider.
I am also a director of the company to ensure of its smooth running. The loan is very close to being paid back to the estate and then handed over to the Trust.
The figures given for probate and to the Upwell Parish Council were based on the best values available for property at that time.
However to achieve that result was going to take a tremendous amount of time, work and effort. If that action had not been taken the value of the estate would have been reduced by approaching 50 per cent, ultimately to the detriment of the village.
I am aware that several local organisations are seeking funds for their projects and it will be a difficult task for the trustees to decide who should receive monies and how much.
The nature reserve at the back of the house has been maintained over the years by the Community Support Groups and they have carried out five years of clearing and maintenance.
However we have to be cautious about letting people visit as the site has had considerable building traffic over the last few years and health and safety of any visitors is uppermost in my mind.
Discussions have taken place with a few potential trustees of the Blunt Charitable Trust and this should be up and running shortly. I had hoped to progress with this last summer but there was a delay on the completion of the five affordable homes which prevented me moving forward.
Although it has taken six years to reach this stage, I hope to move on with the formation of the Blunt Charitable Trust in the near future with trustees who have the best interests of the people and organisations of the village of Upwell.