Holiday firm accused of dirty tactics at its Slaley Hall site to force out members – despite their deals to use the lodges having decades left to run
I’ve come across many timeshare owners desperate to offload weeks at resorts they no longer visit – but upmarket Slaley Hall in Northumberland is different. The people I’ve spoken to who own weeks at the site love it.
But now they fear they’re about to lose their entitlement to stay at the luxury lodges, despite having bought contracts which run until 2069.
They say problems began when Seasons Holidays plc took over the site in 2019, and will culminate with a meeting scheduled for December 17 to vote on winding up the Owner’s Club amid allegations of a stitch-up over the control of its committee.
There are seven seats on the committee, four for owners of weeks at the lodges, and three for representatives of Seasons Holidays.
This four-three balance ensured the independence of the committee – until a newcomer was elected to one of the seats meant for the independent owners – 24-year-old Jack Hurley.
He had bought a week at the site near Hexham so was entitled to stand, but he also happens to be the son of Barry Hurley and Sharon Kinsella, directors of Seasons Holidays.
The company is accused of using its block vote of all the unowned weeks to ensure that Hurley junior got elected, giving it control of the committee and paving the way for the imminent special general meeting.
Seasons says owners of weeks will not lose out if the club is wound up. They would have the option to be paid for their weeks – although it would not say how much – or switch to a Seasons floating week lasting 15 years with no maintenance fees.
It issued a statement saying that it “strongly refuted all allegations” of wrongdoing and blamed independent members of the committee for causing problems.
“Seasons has become increasingly frustrated at how the Slaley Hall committee has undermined all attempts to operate the resort from day one,” it said.
“The constitution provides for the Club to be wound up if 75% of owners agree – there is nothing illegal or underhand.”
That sounds democratic, but what the statement did not say is that Seasons’ control of the vacant weeks gives it 78% of votes, and so, in effect, total control of the Club.
Nor did it comment on any of the other allegations I put to it, including:
- Claims it used its block vote to get Jack Hurley a seat on the committee previously reserved for independent owners of weeks.
- Allegations that pressure has been put on owners to sell their weeks to Seasons, helping take the company past the crucial 75% ownership threshold.
- Why the accounts of Slaley Hall Lodges Ltd are 11 months overdue and requests by members to see the accounts of the Owners’ Club have been rebuffed.
One owner of two weeks told me: “Members experienced persistent emails, letters and face-to-face meetings even whilst holidaying at the resort, suggesting that they sell, or take up other offers within Seasons.
“Individual committee members have felt intimidated, undermined, harassed and broke down in tears after meetings.”
Another said: “It is ludicrous for Seasons to blame the committee when they’ve had control of it since Jack Hurley was elected last November.
“They are in breach of the constitution by not keeping minutes of meetings or showing us accounts.”
A third said: “Slaley Hall is a lovely place, we want to continue to enjoy the site for the rest of our leases.
“No amount of payout, if there is any, will compensate for the loss of our holiday home-from-home.”
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.