Abbots Bromley school closed in August 2019 and a global marketing campaign was undertaken by our advisers Savills, specifically targeting the education sector, with the objective of maintaining an educational use consistent with our charitable objects. An educational buyer was eventually found, and a deal was reached in January 2020 for the sale of the site, with an added condition of sale being that the site would operate as a school.
The agreement was exchanged in April 2020, and the backstop date for completion was July 2020. Shortly before July 2020, the buyer approached us explaining that there were some issues, and requested that we agree an extension to the contract of six months to January 2021. The preference was always for the site to be sold for education and, with that as the aim, we agreed to the extension and did not seek to re-market the property, despite being approached by several interested parties.
Since April we have worked with the buyer’s appointed consultants on their plans for a phased reopening of the site as a school, providing extensive access and addressing all queries raised. We were told that completion would be achieved before the deadline in January 2021. Shortly before the deadline, the buyer communicated, via their solicitors, to say that they were postponing completion of the deal, citing practical issues related to the pandemic. The original deal was signed in April 2020, when all of the world was fully aware of the pandemic and any practical issues related to it could have been addressed then, or when we agreed an extension to the deal in July 2020. We have not, therefore, agreed a further extension as we do not consider the reasons to be tenable, and there is no confidence that the contract would complete at the proposed extended date.
In the absence of any alternative interest from an educational buyer, the trustees of the charity are duty bound to pursue an alternative sale. The desire is to work with the local interests to agree a brief which would inform the future regeneration of the site, and provide guidance to potential purchasers.