Man issued with £1 invoice demands ‘consistent’ policy

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SHEFFIELD Council’s decision not to collect £1 for the freehold of Sheffield City Airport site has been attacked by a city property owner – who was threatened with interest charges by the council for non payment of the same sum in nominal ground rent.

Explaining why it did not collect the pound which was supposed to be paid by the airport site owner, the council said it was ‘not custom and practice’ to collect nominal fees because it costs more in time and effort than the transaction is worth.

The decision means Sheffield Business Park, a joint venture by former airport owner Peel Holdings and private investors, received the 80 acres of airport land for nothing.

It is now worth millions of pounds after planning permission was obtained to turn it into an industrial estate.

But Howard Greaves, former vice chairman of The Friends of Abbeydale Picture House, said: “In 2008, I walked away from The Abbeydale Picture House charity, a decision which personally cost me £75,000 when the remaining trustees put the business they owned into voluntary liquidation.

“In 2010, however, I received a letter from the charity’s solicitor with an invoice for £1. The invoice was issued by Sheffield Council and was for the annual ground rent for the car park adjoining The Abbeydale Picture House.

“That is concrete proof that the council do issue such invoices.

“I suggest that they get one in the post tomorrow to Peel Holdings, and don’t have any qualms about chasing it up – we all know they’re good for the money after their recent windfall.”

A Sheffield Council spokeswoman said: “Sheffield Council has a duty to collect charges, large or small, and we apply that approach consistently. The £1 fee relating to Sheffield Airport was always a nominal fee and would not affect the validity of the transfer and lease.

“The main issue here is that the important element of the airport is the signing of the lease and transfer – not the £1. The ground rent for the car park is what it is, ground rent, and therefore an outstanding bill.”