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Flats' ex-owner: 'I want to be free'

The ex-freeholder of crumbling landmark Embassy Court in Brighton says he no longer wants to take back control of the building.

David Marcel, the previous freeholder of the flats in King's Road, Brighton, which are at the centre of legal action at Brighton County Court, said he had now undergone a change of heart.

Embassy Court, built in 1935, was once one of the most sought-after addresses in Brighton.

It declined in the late Seventies when flats were taken over by absentee leaseholders and a succession of freeholders.

Mr Marcel formerly ran Portvale, a company which owned the freehold until 1997, when it went into liquidation after being ordered by a court to carry out repairs costing £1.5 million.

After a legal fight, the freehold passed to the Crown Estate Commissioners and was taken over by the residents' association.

In the latest court case the lessees, who now own the freehold and formed a company called Bluestorm, have applied for a ruling ordering Portvale Holdings, which owns nine of the 72 flats, to pay its service charges. Mr Marcel is a director of Portvale Holdings.

Portvale Holdings has made a counter-claim applying for damages against Bluestorm for failing to carry out repairs.

Another counter-claim has been made by Chris Camillin, solicitor for Portvale Holdings, who also owns 15 flats, against Bluestorm. He wants the court to make a specific performance order, to force the freeholder to restore the building.

During cross-examination, Mr Marcel told the court after four years of legal wrangling, he no longer wanted any connection with the building.

He intended to sell the remaining flats he owned to Mr Camillin when the legal action was completed.

He admitted he had been using blocking tactics against the current freeholders to avoid paying the service charges.

He said he tried to settle issues between himself and the lessees but could not get the other parties to talk to him.

Jonathan Small, representing Bluestorm, described Mr Marcel as being angry and bitter after losing the freehold and determined not to pay any maintenance charges.

Mr Marcel said his comments were true at the time but he has now changed his mind. He said: "I accept I was wrong."

He said he had to continue his legal action against Bluestorm to force the freeholder to carry out repairs.

The hearing continues.

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