OUTRAGE has greeted Winchester planners’ decision to grant permission for the boss of a collapsed Alresford auction rooms to convert a building into another auction house.
Charles Evans applied for permission to convert The Furniture Warehouse on Easton Lane, whilst owing thousands of pounds to scores of people for goods he had sold.
Since the Chronicle broke the news of Prospect’s collapse in November we have been contacted by some 30 mainly elderly people owed money.
One, who asked not to be named, said: “If he opens up in Winchester he will need to take security guards with him. There are going to be a lot of people after his blood. I am owed more than £3,000.”
Susannah Lyle, of Canon Street, Winchester, is owed £20,000, including for her late parents’ Waterford glass valued at about £12,000. She said on hearing about the planning permission: “I am enraged, but what can we do about it? I have got my lawyers onto it. Lots of people are terribly upset.”
Another man, who is owed around £500 and asked not to be named, said: “It is sickening that he closed and then simply reopened 10 miles down the road a few months later. I know the planners can’t take his character into account but it is still appalling.”
A council spokesman said: “The permission was granted because the development is in accordance with the policies and proposals of the Development Plan and other material considerations did not have sufficient weight to justify a refusal of the application.”
Mr Evans’ whereabouts are unknown although his car with personalised number plates is often seen outside The Furniture Warehouse. The building was being marketed last year at an annual rent of £60,000.
He told the Chronicle that he planned to “open as soon as possible.
“The new auction house is nothing to do with Prospect Auctions. I was not the boss, I was the overseer, the manager. The place at Winnall is mine.
“I don’t owe any money. I was not the boss. Gemma Sharp was. All I am trying to do is start a business. That is all I’m going to say,” he said.
Miss Sharp, of Station Road, Alresford, was declared bankrupt at Winchester County Court on January 16. The extent and cause of her debts were unclear.
Mr Evans’ claim not to have been the boss does not chime with his planning application available at the city council planning office. Mr Evans stated he wanted to take on a ten-year lease and employ 15 people, more than in Alresford: “The reason for leasing the building is due to expansion. I started the auction house in Prospect Road three years ago and have outgrown the premises. These premises are currently empty and potentially could stay empty for a long period. It is always better to see a thriving business than empty buildings.”
Mr Evans claimed last November that he was putting the Alresford business into the hands of the receivers. But the Chronicle checked with the Insolvency Service, which holds records of bankruptcies, and there are no records of either Prospect or Mr Evans entering into bankruptcy proceedings as would normally happen.
Companies House has no records as Prospect was not a limited company.
Many complaints have been made to Hampshire Trading Standards which has declined to discuss the case.
The change of use was granted under the planning officers' delegated powers.