A FARMER has blasted Warrington Borough Council, after alleging it sold 12 acres of land privately, instead of offering it for public sale.

Tony Corwood owns Cuddington Manor Farm, in Gorstage, and wanted the land that surrounds former hospital Hefferston Grange to add to his 90-acre site.

The 12-acre plot was originally planned to be part of an auction of 50 acres of land – owned by Warrington Borough Council – that was being held at Manchester United’s Old Trafford ground on Thursday last week.

Mr Corwood, 76, said he is seeking an explanation as to why the land was not put up for public sale at the same time as other lots of land in the council’s ownership, flanking the fields he was after.

“I was interested in the land which amounts to two fields adjoining my farm and expected it to be sold publicly and advertised,” he said.

“They just told me that the land I wanted was not in the sale and it hadn’t been withdrawn, but they have gone and sold it privately two weeks before the auction day.”

The ownership of Hefferston Grange Farm transferred to Warrington from Cheshire County Council in 1998.

During the Second World War, the Grange was used as a hospital for soldiers, before being converted into a hospital for tuberculosis patients once the war was over.

Mr Corwood added: “Two years ago the farmer who was renting it from Warrington Borough Council decided to pack up and move on – that is why it was up for sale.

“The field then went a bit wild – it grew two-feet high and the council then offered it to another farmer, who said he would take it but he pulled out.

“The guy who has bought it talked about renting it but the council told him to negotiate with the previous farmer but he was charging too high an amount.

“I would have paid £7,000 to £8,000 an acre for the plot.”

But Peter Taylor, head of regeneration and development at Warrington Borough Council said: “After a recent property review, we approved the sale of the farm and it was subsequently divided into five lots for sale.

“Following receipt of an exceptional offer for one of the lots, we decided to sell prior to auction, after receiving two independent valuations and advice that this offer was well in excess of what we could expect to achieve at auction.

“All persons inquiring about this land were invited to make an offer, and we followed all rules, regulations and guidelines for disposal of property in order to maximise value in the sale of public property assets.”