BEMBRIDGE Parish Council has been left facing a huge legal bill following settlement of High Court litigation against the council.

The sale by the council of 5-7 High Street has been mired in controversy ever since the council first proposed to dispose of the Bembridge village asset.

Litigation was brought against the parish council by local business owner, Peter Burke, who had submitted the highest cash offer for the building, but had his offer rejected.

The council has agreed to pay Mr Burke's legal costs and to re-run the sale process after a judicial review was filed in the High Court by Mr Burke's legal team over what he said was a substantially flawed and incorrect process used to sell the property.

Based on known legal fees to Mr Burke of £18,000, plus projected fees to the council, it is expected the total legal bill to Bembridge will be around £30,000.

As well as submitting the highest cash offer for the building, Mr Burke promised to keep the public toilets open at a cost of only £1 a year to the council.

Instead, the council rejected his offer and spent £20,000 building another public toilet currently under construction at the village hall site.

A campaigner against the sale, Sir Paul Kenny, said: "The whole issue of selling a community asset has been a financial and public relations disaster.

"Now to top it all, the residents of Bembridge face footing a massive legal bill brought about by mismanagement and incompetence on the running of council affairs carried out in the name of Bembridge Parish Council tax payers.

"A full investigation and audit of the council's handling of these matters is urgently required, then and only then will the full truth emerge over the handling of this sale."

As previously reported, a public petition raised more than 1,300 signatures against the sale of the building.

Residents also voted by almost three to one against the sale in an official village poll.