John Bercow and his wife Sally are buying a property at troubled Plantation Wharf in Battersea, where pensioner Dennis Jackson won a reprieve on having his flat forfeited yesterday following a dispute over service charges.
A grace and favour riverside pad in the Palace of Westminster is not enough for the Bercows, who exchanged on a £935,000 mews house a week ago.
“The Bercows have been trying to buy my place for four months and are obviously pretty keen,” said seller Sam Fryer, 46, a publisher of yachting magazines. “It was not even on the market when I was approached by the estate agents asking whether I would sell.”
Fryer has converted a live/ work unit that she used as a home and offices into a single 3,100 square foot residential property with, she claims, seven bedrooms.
But Bercow would be mistaken if he believes Plantation Wharf will be a refuge from the argy-bargy in the Commons. Fryer is only selling up because there is such “poisonous ill-feeling” at the riverside development. However, Fryer herself has faced court actions, including the threat of forfeiture of her lease, for non-payment of the service charges on three occasions. She had to settle outstanding service charge payments before agreeing to sell her home to Bercow.
Yesterday at Wandsworth County Court, Jackson, a 73-year-old pensioner, faced having his £800,000 flat forfeited after a long legal saga that began three years ago when he refused to pay service charges that he claims he did not understand. He has not settled the dispute.
“If you make a stand against the service charge bills, like Dennis has, you end up facing the loss of your home,” says Fryer. “I am so appalled by what is happening to him.”
The site is run by Plantation Wharf Management Limited, which since October last year has been controlled by the residents. Fryer has called for an extraordinary general meeting to halt expensive litigation being carried out in their name.
But PWML chairman Bryan [Howard] Lewis, a former solicitor, says Jackson must pay up or face the consequences, and is the “author of his own folly”.
“I am really sad to leave as I have lived here 15 years,” said Fryer. “I did not want to leave, but I just do not feel that my house is really mine. If Bercow can sort out Plantation Wharf, it will be a very desirable place to live.”