Bid is a bitter blow to Dunford House campaign group

DM1941486a.jpg. Richard Cobden's great great grandson Nick Cobden Wright is campaigning to save Dunford House from being developed as houses. Pictured with Chris Boxley (ex heyshott vicar) and his wife Lydia. Photo by Derek Martin Photography. SUS-190416-154440008
DM1941486a.jpg. Richard Cobden's great great grandson Nick Cobden Wright is campaigning to save Dunford House from being developed as houses. Pictured with Chris Boxley (ex heyshott vicar) and his wife Lydia. Photo by Derek Martin Photography. SUS-190416-154440008

Campaigners hoping to save Dunford House are ‘deeply disappointed’ to hear the property is to be sold to another buyer.

Nick Cobden-Wright, the great-great-grandson of politician and former owner Richard Cobden, has had a swell of support from residents and several high profile backers for his plan to bring the West Lavington house back into family ownership.

But he said this week the campaign had been told the YMCA, which owns the estate valued at around £1.5million, is planning to sell it to a bidder for an undisclosed sum.

Mr Cobden-Wright felt the family had been ‘discounted’ after a plea for the Cobden Foundation to have a ‘green light’ to fundraise towards a higher bid was refused.

He said: “What we’ve found is when you talk to the National Lottery and other bodies and they’re very interested if you’ve got the green light from the YMCA.

“This would have been the difference between having a go or not.”

He said a number of people behind the campaign, which he said now includes MPs and people in the House of Lords, had written to the Charities Commission to ask for an inquiry into how the case was being handled.

The outcome, he said, could impact on other charities looking to dispose of assets that had been bequeathed to them by families in a similar situation.

“It’s a highly emotive issue and I think people want common sense and the heritage to be respected over money,” he said.

“We absolutely are not berating [the YMCA] from a family perspective. All we’ve got is an interest in Dunford, in our family heritage and national heritage and our passion is that that heritage is respected.”

Mr Coben-Wright said he was also concerned that items belonging to Richard Cobden were preserved in a suitable environment and not sold on.

He said that should the foundation regain the opportunity to buy the house, it would restore the home to a place celebrating Richard Cobden, best known for his role in the historic Corn Laws.

“We’re not going to go in and shut the doors, it would be open for the community, which is what it was always intended to be,” he said.