'Life is not easy' - Duke of Norfolk responds to criticism over £2.37m taxpayer-funded Sheffield land deal
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Edward Fitzalan-Howard wrote to “put the record straight” after Sheffield MP Clive Betts said it was “obscene” he was set to benefit from the sale of brownfield land for much-needed housing in Attercliffe.
In a letter responding to the “disparaging remarks” the duke states he bought the plot in 2000 for another project which failed, before being approached by the council about the housing plan.
He wrote: “Fifteen years later this has finally come to fruition and my borrowings against this land are in urgent need of repaying. Life is not as easy as you think.”
He was also stung by Mr Betts questioning whether he ever visited the city,
He wrote: “I take great issue with you that I hardly visit Sheffield. Sheffield is dear to my heart and over the last forty years I come up approximately once a month and we are always trying to do the best for Sheffield's regeneration.
“The Smithywood Business Park is testament to what we have achieved, quite apart from Parkwood and the developments in the middle of the city.”
And he responded positively to Mr Betts’ suggestion he do more to help the city.
WHY HAS THE DUKE INVITED THE MP TO MEET HIM?
In the letter he states he has invited the MP to meet him to discuss “what we should do with our estate in Sheffield for the good of the city going forwards”, adding: “We are always open to ideas and discussions”.
It is copied to his son and heir, Henry Fitzalan-Howard, the Earl of Arundel, and Jeremy Robinson, of estate agent Fowler Sandford, which administers the duke’s assets in Sheffield.
WHAT ELSE DID MR BETTS SAY?
In April, Mr Betts responded to news of the Attercliffe land deal saying it was wrong that the duke should “make money for doing nothing, off the hard work of people who have less than him”.
He also suggested he could give the plot to the housing scheme and say “I recognise I have done very, very well over the years and I want to put something back”.
And he invited him to use his wealth and resources to help “level up” Sheffield in some form.
WHERE DOES THE DUKE LIVE?
Edward Fitzalan-Howard lives in Arundel Castle in Sussex. He also owns Framlingham Castle, Bungay Castle, Worksop Manor, Carlton Towers and Norfolk House in London, according to author Nick Hayes.
Author Guy Shrubshole states he owned 46,000 acres of land in 2001. And in 2015 he received £449,166 in taxpayer-funded farm subsidies and £259,605 in single area payments.
The duke has an estate office on St James’ Street near Sheffield Cathedral and owns more than 100 plots of land and buildings in South Yorkshire alone, according to the Land Registry.
His wealth dates back to the 14th century when King Richard II made Thomas Mowbray the first Duke of Norfolk and gave him land, offices and grants.
Mr Betts said previously: “It shows the class system is alive and well. It really is wrong that it should still be the case today.
“If we are going to level up the country, as one of the big landowners he could make a contribution.”