Historic buildings put at risk after charity letting them out goes bust

Customers who paid up to £2,000 a week to stay in the properties are also waiting to see if they can get their money back

Paul Gallagher
Thursday 24 September 2015 08:44

Britons who paid up to £2,000 each per week to stay in historic properties this summer have had their holidays cancelled as the charity letting them out has gone bust.

Customers are waiting to hear whether liquidators for the Vivat Trust, which had rescued neglected and dilapidated listed buildings, will be able to get their money back.

Most recent accounts for 2013-14 showed the trust had more £100,000 “cash at bank” and had a net worth of almost £3m, but a notice on the Charity Commission website said the trust had failed to submit up-to-date information on its finances.

A statement on the trust’s website says: “Once appointed the liquidators will investigate whether or not the deposits were held in a trust account and, if appropriate, look into the possibility of returning monies paid.”

Vivat, which means “live long” in Latin, looked for a white knight to step in to rescue it. The trust is being wound up and is in the hands of accountants Begbies Traynor.

A number of buildings of great architectural and historical significance could now be at risk. Among them is Edinburgh’s Old Observatory House, a three-floor, eight-bedroom accommodation, which dates from 1776 and has been in the city’s ownership since the late 19th century. The City of Edinburgh Council secured the building’s structure and exterior around six years ago, after which Vivat took on a lease, restored the interior and began letting out the property commercially. The council is not stepping in to help.

Other Vivat historic holiday homes include the 15th-century Liberton Tower, let as “a private castle for four” in Edinburgh, and Hadlow Tower in Kent, a Grade I-listed Gothic Revival folly.

Matthew Beckett, an architectural historian of UK country houses, said the collapse of the trust is “a real loss as an alternative model of heritage preservation”.

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