A Conservative peer has received more than £300,000 in payments from the government’s “levelling up fund” to fix potholes on a 7,500-acre private estate.
The £330,000 was awarded from the government’s Getting Building Fund to fix a road to the independently-run Charleston Farmhouse in East Sussex, as well as farms and other business on land owned by Henry Nicholas the 8th Viscount Gage, a hereditary Conservative peer in the House of Lords.
Lisa Nandy, Labour’s shadow secretary of state for levelling up, has written to Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove demanding he explain how the decision was made and what safeguards are in place to protect taxpayer money.
“When he announced the £900 million Getting Building Fund the Prime Minister said the government was determined to put ‘its arms round people in times of crisis…committed not just to defeating coronavirus but to using this crisis to finally tackle this country’s great unresolved challenges of the last three decades’,” wrote Nandy in a letter published today. “‘To build the homes, to fix the NHS, to tackle the skills crisis, to mend the indefensible gap in opportunity and productivity and connectivity between the regions of the UK. To unite and level up.’
“Filling in potholes for a Conservative peer surely cannot have been what he meant.”
While Charleston Farmhouse is open to the public and owned independently, the road is “wholly private” and owned by Firle Estate Management, according to the funding application, providing “the only vehicular access into and out of Charleston and access to the dairy farm and cottages and two other businesses”.