‘New town’ firm Skelwith owes £19m to taxman

A golfer at Flaxby Park Golf and Country Club.
A golfer at Flaxby Park Golf and Country Club.
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THE COMPANY behind plans to build a new town of 2,500 homes on the site of a North Yorkshire golf course owes £19 million in unpaid VAT to the taxman, it has emerged.

Skelwith Leisure, a subsidiary of York-based luxury development firm Skelwith Group, was placed into provisional liquidation last month, while a linked firm Skelwith Leisure (Raithwaite), which owns and operates Raithwaite Hall on the North Yorkshire coast, has been placed into administration.

It emerged today that a petition to wind up Skelwith Leisure, which is behind a proposed multi-million pound hotel and golf complex at Flaxby, near Knaresborough, was first presented to a court on July 6.

A spokesman for Baker Tilly, the appointed liquidators, said: “Skelwith Leisure Limited owes £19million in VAT. [HM Revenue and Customs] applied for the appointment of Provisional Liquidators on July 16 2015 following a petition presented to Court to wind up the company on July 6 2015.”

It comes a week after Skelwith faced the farming family who sold the golf course to the developer during a hearing in the High Court at London.

The court heard that the Armstrong family sold Flaxby Golf Course to Skelwith in 2008 for £7 million after it proposed to take the facility ‘upmarket’ with plans for a 300 bed five star hotel.

Flaxby Country Resort was touted to become the jewel in Yorkshire’s tourism crown with lofty ambitions to host the Ryder Cup. It attracted a large number of investors, including former England cricket captain Michael Vaughan, and land registry documents show that 158 hotel rooms were sold off plan.

However, in November 2014 Skelwith Leisure abandoned this idea and announced plans to build a new ‘village’ of up to 2,500 homes complete with primary school, shops, and a smaller hotel.

Mark Warwick QC, for 80-year-old Alan Armstrong and his family, told the High Court that his clients have now “lost all confidence” in Skelwith Leisure’s ambitions or ability to repay after the firm missed capital repayments.

The Armstrongs are now seeking to develop the land through another venture project and a summary judgement on the case is expected later this year.

Another subsidiary of the Skelwith Group, Skelwith Leisure (Raithwaite), which owns and operates Raithwaite Hall, between Sandsend and Whitby, was placed into the hands of two administrators at KPMG last month.

It is understood that Depa, a furnishings firm based in Dubai who were involved in the design of Raithwaite Hall, have also applied for a winding-up order, and that the case will be heard at Leeds County Court on September 8.

KPMG, administrators for Skelwith Leisure (Raithwaite), said the luxury hotel, a short walk from the cliff-tops of Sandsend was “continuing to trade under the control of the joint administrators whilst a buyer is sought”.

The Skelwith Group have declined to comment but previously blamed the costs of a legal dispute over the ownership of the land at Flaxby Golf Course as the reason it entered liquidation and said the move would have no impact on its plans to build 2,300 homes which it put to Harrogate Borough Council’s planning department in June.