A PROPERTY developer has outlined his plans for Sawbridgeworth's historic Sayesbury Manor after agreeing to buy the property from East Herts Council.o

Sidney Jeffcoate will convert the Grade II listed building in Bell Street into four apartments, build two semi-detached houses in the grounds, and landscape the remaining open space which will become private gardens for tenants, subject to planning permission being granted.

East Herts Council has been trying to sell the 18th century manor since 1997 when it was identified as surplus to requirements. The sale was finally agreed by councillors at last week's executive committee.

The price will not be disclosed until the deal is finalised.

Mr Jeffcoate now has eight weeks to submit a planning application to East Herts Council. If his proposals are accepted the sale will be completed.

The move has attracted local opposition including a 50-name petition organised by Sawbridgeworth resident Michael Brown who says the manor is a natural civic centre for the town and should stay in public ownership.

He told the Citizen: "This is a very sad story for Sawbridgeworth. It seems the local community has fallen victim to the cost-cutting syndrome which is the be-all and end-all of local government thinking these days.

"I feel sure many local people will wish to examine and comment on any planning application with interest and concern."

But East Herts Council leader Mike Carver said: "The people of Sawbridgeworth were offered the building through their town council but we owe it to the people of the whole of east Herts to dispose of any assets which we no longer need."

Planning, policy and portfolio holder Duncan Peek added that the council had no option but to sell because of Government policy requiring local authorities to dispose of non-essential properties.

Sawbridgeworth town council, which had its offices in Sayesbury Manor since its inception in 1974, has now moved to new premises at 2B The Square.

Deputy town clerk Iris Theobald said: "I worked there (Sayesbury Manor) for about 21 years so I was sorry to leave but we've got nice offices here."

The remaining tenants will vacate the building by September, when their leases expire. East Herts Council will retain ownership of the Haileybury Day Centre which is also on the site.