People left out of pocket by the collapse of a Hampshire auction room are furious after planners allowed the boss to open a new business.
Charles Evans, also known as Charles Barney-Evans, applied for permission to convert The Furniture Warehouse in Easton Lane, Winchester, into an auction house while owing thousands of pounds to customers for goods he had sold.
Since the Daily Echo broke the news of Prospect’s collapse in November we have been contacted by around 30, mainly elderly, people who say they are owed money.
Susannah Lyle, of Canon Street, Winchester, is owed £20,000, including her late parents’ Waterford glass valued at about £12,000. She said: “I am enraged, but what can we do about it? I have got my lawyers onto it. Lots of people are terribly upset by it.”
Another man, who is owed around £500 and asked not to be named, said: “It is sickening that he closed and then simply reopened 10 miles down the road a few months later.
“I know the planners can’t take his character into account but it is still appalling.”
Mr Evans’ whereabouts are unknown although his Saab car with personalised number plates is often seen outside The Furniture Warehouse. The building was being marketed last year at an annual rent of £60,000.
He told the Daily Echo that he planned to “open as soon as possible”.
He added: “The new auction house is nothing to do with Prospect Auctions. I was not the boss, I was the overseer, the manager. The place at Winnall is mine.
“I don’t owe any money. I was not the boss or the owner. Gemma Sharp was. All I am trying to do is start a business. That is all I’m going to say,” he said.
Miss Sharp, of Station Road, Alresford, was declared bankrupt at Winchester County Court on January 16. The extent and cause of her debts were unclear.
But Mr Evans’ claim not to have been the boss contradicts his planning application to the city council.
Mr Evans clearly stated he wanted to take on a ten-year lease and employ 15 people, ten more than in Alresford.
The application states: “The reason for leasing the building is due to expansion. I started the auction house in Prospect Road three years ago and have outgrown the premises. These premises are currently empty and potentially could stay empty for a long period. It is always better to see a thriving business than empty buildings.”
Mr Evans claimed last November that he was putting the Alresford business into the hands of the receivers. But the Daily Echo has checked with the Insolvency Service, which holds records of bankruptcies, and there are no records of either Prospect or Mr Evans entering into bankruptcy proceedings as would normally happen.
Companies House has no records as Prospect was not a limited company. Dozens of complaints are believed to have been made to Hampshire Trading Standards, which has declined to discuss the case.
At the time of the planning application, a city council spokesman said the planners could only consider the issue on its planning merits and could not take issues such as Mr Evans’ track record into account.
The change of use was granted under the planning officers' delegated powers.
The spokesman said: “A decision on planning permission relates to the use of the site. It is not related to the applicant. In other words, if and when planning permission is granted for a change of use, it could be taken up by another individual or business. The permission relates to the appropriate use of the site, not to the applicant.”