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Rescue plan for Arundells
THE multi-millionaire businessman who wants to keep Sir Edward Heath’s former home Arundells open to the public has described it as a “tremendous opportunity” for Salisbury.
Peter Batey, who worked for Sir Edward as a political private secretary between 1982 and 1986 and was a regular visitor to his Cathedral Close home, wants to keep the house and garden as a visitor attraction.
Mr Batey has teamed up with influential MPs, political advisers and Sir Edward’s former colleagues to launch a rescue plan that, if successful, will stop the sale of Arundells as a residential property.
Despite announcing last year that the sale of Arundells was inevitable due to mounting losses, the six trustees of the Sir Edward Heath Charitable Foundation are meeting today to discuss Mr Batey’s proposal.
In January, former Salisbury MP Robert Key resigned as a trustee, calling for Arundells to be sold as quickly possible.
After considering Mr Batey’s plan, the trustees will make a recommendation to the Charity Commission, which will take the final decision on whether the house should stay open to the public as stated in Sir Edward’s will.
“I am passionate about this,” said Mr Batey. “It is a wonderful house and people should have the opportunity to enjoy it.
“Salisbury could be the only place where it is possible to visit the home of a postwar prime minister, and that is a tremendous opportunity.
“Arundells enhances the Cathedral Close and offers another experience for visitors.
Ted cared very deeply that his home was open for people to visit and I feel we owe it to him to honour that.”
Mr Batey, who is chairman of Beijing-based investment company Vermilion Partners, wants the house to stay open as a visitor attraction with special exhibitions, events and occasional use for wedding photography.
In addition to the downstairs display rooms that contain artefacts reflecting Sir Edward’s political career, sporting and musical interests, Mr Batey would like to convert the first floor rooms into new spaces for special exhibitions.
“This would be of particular interest to schools,” he said. “The period of history from the 1960s to 80s is starting to appear on curriculums and Heath’s involvement in issues like Europe and the Middle East has huge relevance today. We cannot lose this opportunity.”
Mr Batey says he is willing to provide financial backing while the rescue plan is put in place, and around 15,000 visitors a year would ensure Arundells’ future success.
In the meantime he is asking the trustees to re-open the house to the public this summer.