Macclesfield couple criticise Cheshire East Council over property deal

By Phil McCann
Cheshire political reporter, BBC News

Image caption,
Elizabet Frutos and Waqar Abbassi agreed to sell their building as part of regeneration plans for Macclesfield

The owners of a building due to be sold as part of a town-centre redevelopment plan have criticised the council for allegedly going back on their deal.

The Macclesfield premises' sale was agreed between the owners and Cheshire East Council in March.

Owners Elizabet Frutos and Waqar Abbassi say they have been "left in limbo" after the council later said the price they had agreed was too high.

The council said the case was "under review".

Mrs Frutos and Mr Abbassi, who are married, ran part of their building on Great King Street as a cafe and sub-let the remaining two units to business tenants.

The deal would have seen Cheshire East Council buying the building to enable property developer Wilson Bowden to make headway on its £90m Silk Street scheme.

Those plans would have included a multiplex cinema, restaurants and large department stores.

Image caption,
The building at the heart of the dispute

On 26 March, the council agreed a price with Mrs Frutos and Mr Abbassi as well as a level of compensation for the units' occupiers.

As part of the deal, both parties committed to exchange sale contracts within 30 days - at which point the agreement would have become legally binding.

'Hundreds of plans'

Mrs Frutos and Mr Abbassi said they then closed their cafe and gave four weeks' notice to their tenants.

Mr Abbassi added: "We were planning our future, we were planning our child's future... a family has hundreds of plans linked to this kind of situation."

Weeks after the deal, Cheshire East Council wrote to them to say that a surveyor had judged that the agreed price and level of compensation was too high because "the property appears to have been vacant for a long time."

But Ms Frutos and Mr Abbassi said they have invoices and CCTV footage that prove the units had only been empty for a few weeks, and this was only because of the council's stipulation within their agreement.

'In limbo'

The original Silk Street scheme to redevelop Macclesfield town centre has now been scrapped.

However, scaled-back regeneration plans have now been unveiled for the land on which Ms Frutos' and Mr Abbassi's building is located. It is now being advertised to developers.

A Cheshire East Council spokesperson said: "The council is sympathetic to individuals who have been directly affected by the change in circumstances, but we have to ensure value for money when spending public funds."

They added it would "be inappropriate to comment any further" as the case was being reviewed.

Ms Frutos told the BBC she hasn't been given a revised offer from the council and no longer has an income because their cafe's fixtures and fittings have been sold and their tenants have left.

She said: "Now I feel like I just don't know where I'm standing. We don't know what to do".

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