Walden School was sold to developer for less than valuation price

PUBLISHED: 15:44 01 June 2018

Walden School in April, 2018.

Walden School in April, 2018.

Archant

Walden School, an independent school in Saffron Walden which closed last year, was bought by developers for £7,025,000 - more than a million pounds less than the valuation of the land and property carried out by specialists in 2015.

Land Registry documents reveal that Chase Limited paid more than £7 million on April 20, for the land and property at Walden School.

But in July 2015, a full valuation report was undertaken by Savills on instructions from Barclays Bank and this gave a market value of £8.3 million.

A spokesman for Grant Thornton, the school’s administrators, said: “Using Savills as agents, the administrators undertook two comprehensive marketing campaigns for the school resulting in the sale on April 20.

“The valuation undertaken by Savills in 2015 was under a very different set of circumstances and the market was not tested at that time.

“The value of any property is not truly known until the asset is put up for sale and offers are received.”

The school had already sold off land in 2011 and 2012 to Hill Residential Limited.

A source, who had knowledge of the process but did not want to be named, said: “The school steadily sold off assets rather than undertake more fundamental structural changes to put it onto a sustainable long-term financial footing.

“Various parcels of land had been sold off in recent decades until it became harder to do so. By 2014/15, there was little left that could be disposed of easily - though the water tower in Debden Road was sold off afterwards.

“Despite the various challenges, the finances were not so bad that the school could not have been saved had all the governors and senior management team possessed the will.”

The source said lenders to the school also had to “share some of the blame for triggering the sale process” by allegedly being inflexible over the length of a turnaround plan that was bring formulated by the governing body.

Grant Thornton confirmed that it would be extending the administration for another 12 months and said it was working towards the school’s creditors being paid in the early autumn.

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