A man has claimed a controversial charity had him “over a barrel” after they charged him £20,000 to buy his own garden.

Retired Shepley firefighter, Peter Phillips, has been revealed as another unhappy “customer” of the Holme Valley Land Charity.

The charity, formed by Holme Valley Parish Council, is selling plots of land in the hope the cash can be used for community work.

But it has been beset by a number of legal issues and disputes and been forced to hand many plots back to their rightful owners.

Mr Phillips, 59, says he has been hard done by as he agreed to buy the land he used as his garden in 1992 for £2,500.

But almost 20 years later, with the land charity now claiming it owned his garden, the price was put up to £20,000.

The charity threatened to auction off the plot to the highest bidder unless he paid the new price.

But with the small plot one of the few pleasures for his seriously ill wife, Mr Phillips said he did not have the energy to fight the charity and was forced to use a large chunk of his pension fund to come up with the extra cash.

MP Jason McCartney has now criticised the “secretive” way the charity has been run and called for the parish councillors running it to be “held to account”.

Mr Phillips said he was unhappy at the council’s “broken promises”.

And he says he was never told his original agreement had been cancelled until August 2010 when he received a notice to vacate the land.

He said: “At the time my wife was very ill.

“One of the few pleasures she had left was sitting out in the garden.

“So unless we bought it we were going to lose it.

“They had me over a barrel – they weren’t sympathetic at all.

“I contacted them on several occasions and they didn’t even give me the courtesy of replying.”

Peter Phillips of Gate Foot Lane, Shepley on the land beside his house
Peter Phillips of Gate Foot Lane, Shepley on the land beside his house
 

Mr Phillips said when he agreed the sale with the parish council in the early nineties he never thought it would drag on for more than two decades.

“I thought it would be a year or two but it went on for twenty,” he said.

“I was using the land so I wasn’t too unhappy as I thought one day the land would be mine.

“So when they gave me notice to quit the land it was a nasty shock.”

He added: “They say they’re working in the best interests of the people of the Holme Valley but as far as I can see they’ve spent £50,000 on administration and the people have had no benefit at all.”

Last month the Examiner reported how the charity had been sued by a Thurstonland couple after it wrongly took their land.

And we have revealed several plots have been given back to Yorkshire Water along with one piece of public “common land” at Honley that had been sold to a farmer.

Mr Phillips said the charity had refused to show him how they had come up with the £20,000 price tag.

One of the three valuations done by the Holmfirth based charity was by Paul Sykes, who is also a Holme Valley Parish councillor. Holme Valley Parish Council is the sole trustee of the charity.

Colne Valley MP, Jason McCartney, said he had raised the issue in Parliament and been told people who felt aggrieved could raise the issue with the parish council or the local district auditor.

He said: “The charity has handled this project badly and there’s a level of secrecy and a lack of transparency around the charity that’s made things worse.

“It’s a complex issue selling land and clearly it’s proven to be beyond the parish council.

“We have some very ancient deeds in parts of our valley and it’s a complicated and specialist field.

“But nevertheless, they are elected officials and they need to be held to account.

“I think it’s sad that some of the people caught up in this have had to go through a legal process.”

The Examiner approached the charity for comment but got no response.

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