Council set to sell off ‘iconic’ Woolley Hall despite plan to create spa and wedding venue

Wakefield Council looks set to sell off a seventeenth century country house which had been earmarked to be turned into wedding venue and spa.Wakefield Council looks set to sell off a seventeenth century country house which had been earmarked to be turned into wedding venue and spa.
Wakefield Council looks set to sell off a seventeenth century country house which had been earmarked to be turned into wedding venue and spa.
Wakefield Council looks set to sell off a seventeenth century country house which had been earmarked to be turned into wedding venue and spa.

Senior councillors have been asked to agree to the sale of Woolley Hall as part of cost saving measures.

The Grade II-listed hall, on the outskirts of the village of Woolley, near to the Wakefield-Barnsley border, dates back to 1635.

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Owned for centuries by the wealthy Wentworth family, the council took over the building in 1947.

The Labour-run authority outlined its vision to restore the derelict hall to its former glory in 2022 when it took the building off the market.

Council leader Denise Jeffery said at the time that she wanted the venue to become a modern wedding, spa and afternoon tea venue.

But the council’s cabinet is expected to agree to the building being put up for sale when it meets on June 18.

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A report says the council is carrying out a review of its assets and describes the hall as “under-utilised.”

The document adds: “Woolley Hall is still deemed as a suitable disposal to contribute to the council’s revenue savings target and potentially realise a capital receipt.

“The preferred option is to proceed now to disposal using an external agent to market and dispose for the best consideration possible.

“Unconditional offers will be requested on the open market.”

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Samantha Harvey, Conservative councillor for Wakefield Rural ward, criticised the proposals, saying: “The stunning Woolley Hall, with almost 400 years of history, is one of Wakefield’s most iconic buildings.

“Despite the council’s long-standing promises to restore the hall to its former glory, nothing has been done.

“Sadly, this remarkable Grade II historical site is deteriorating with every passing day that they fail to act.”

Coun Harvey said Woolley residents were “frustrated” over the lack of progress with the building in recent years.

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She added: “It’s high time that the council’s leadership work with local groups, the parish council and the district’s councillors before presenting a feasible, fully-costed plan of action and finally getting to work on the long-overdue restoration project.

“The council has continuously been stalling these plans, giving vague answers when questioned on why so much time has elapsed yet so little progress has occurred.

“Now we know why there was no transparency on the issue.

“Throughout this entire decision period they have never done a public consultation, and their justification for abandoning the restoration plans is paper thin.”

Andrew Jones. chair of Woolley Residents Association, said: “Realistically, any investor in the project will need to come up with creative ways of covering the cost of the huge amount of work that needs to take place.

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“I still think it will make a wonderful wedding venue with its beautiful grounds for an investor.”

In February 2022, it was announced that a third party was likely to be brought in to run a restaurant at the hall, which would be open to the public.

The plans were unveiled after campaigners warned that the much-loved building was falling to “rack and ruin”.

Commenting on the plans at the time, Coun Jeffery said: “I love Woolley Hall, it’s a fabulous place.

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“In the past we put it up for sale. I never wanted to do it, but times were tough.

“It’s a Grade II listed building, and it belongs to the people of the district and it matters to people.”

Private developers who previously showed an interest in the building had wanted to convert it into apartments, with a caveat that extra houses would be built in the grounds.

Coun Jeffery said she believed the proposal “would ruin the place”, adding: “We’ve been beavering away and we’ve pulled away from the people who wanted to buy it.

“We’re hoping to do it ourselves, but if we can’t we’re looking for a sympathetic partner.

“We don’t want to do anything to destroy the ambience of the place.”