Jonathan Schofield on the continuing story of the hole in the wall gang and 29-31 Byrom Street
When legal hyenas Mishcon de Reya send a magazine a threatening letter it probably means the magazine is doing something right. That happened in January 2022 after Confidentials.com had slammed the owner, Barry Tucker of Euro Car Parks, for his wilful neglect of a pair of important Manchester buildings at 29-31 Byrom Street. This was the article.
Euro Car Parks are clearly so arrogant not even Manchester City Council can find a way to make contact
In the article we revealed how Tucker had treated the buildings and how we had tried to contact Tucker through phone, email and letter. He ignored our request as to why he had allowed these 1790s houses, complete with a chapel, to rot for more than a decade. We repeated words from an article in the Daily Mail calling Tucker a ‘fat cat’.
Given how Tucker had completely ignored our attempts to give him a right of reply plus the arrogant, haughty and unaccountable way companies such as his Euro Car Parks company operates we thought this tag was more than justified.
Mishcon de Reya didn't agree and wrote a long letter including: ‘Please remove the Confidentials Article from your website immediately and confirm when this has been done.’ They threatened: ‘Our clients' position as to costs and damages will be determined by the speed with which you act.’
The law firm particularly objected to a photo of an article from the Daily Mail showing a photo of Tucker’s £8m palatial London property where the Mancunian now resides. The Mishcon de Reya letter absurdly implied our article was inciting people to go down to London to personally harangue Tucker and his family because of a decayed building in Manchester.
Mishcon de Reya never mentioned in their letter the Manchester properties and their disgraceful neglect. They ignored that as comprehensively as Tucker and Euro Car Parks had ignored our invitation to respond. This was a classic case of a wealthy individual through a notorious law firm trying to strong arm the media.
We refused to remove the article, although we deleted the picture of a picture from the Daily Mail. Our full response is published below.
Other publications took notice of what was happening and the story made it into Private Eye earlier this year, in their Nooks and Corners feature.
In December, for the original article, the city council had given us a statement which included: “Building Control have agreed to visit and review the building.”
We reminded them of this on 29 August this year. We wrote: ‘The attached photographs show how the building condition is becoming critical, some upper parts of the building look as though they may fall into the street. The chapel at the rear looks particularly precarious.
‘Several walls have increased their lean out of perpendicular and bricks have fallen into the street from damage at ground level. These are blocking part of the pavement thus impeding pedestrian and disabled access on Camp Street.
‘My question is has Building Control visited and reviewed the building? If so, have any actions been instigated?
‘The assurance of a visit was given almost ten months ago.’
Manchester City Council didn't let on whether they had visited before our reminder but a spokesperson replied with: 'We can confirm that Building Control officers have attempted to contact the owner of the building to secure the low-level brick openings as a matter of urgency. So far contact has not been possible, so in the interim the Council has arranged a contractor to undertake the works under a s78 building act notice - the cost of which will be referred back to the owner. Further enforcement or action under dangerous building powers are not currently feasible. However, we will continue to review the condition of the property and maintain contact with the owner where necessary.
Barry Tucker and Euro Car Parks are clearly so arrogant not even Manchester City Council can find a way to make contact.
It’s a shame the other actions ‘are not currently’ feasible'. Apparently, officers don't believe these properties are a risk to the public despite the fact they a danger to themselves given their state.
Still, this is a small victory especially for anyone who has been unfairly stung by a Euro Car Parks fine. Will the cost of the repairs, probably a few hundred pounds, increase, as with a Euro Car Parks charge if the company don’t pay on time?
Let’s hope so.
In December last year we said: ‘The property next door, 27 Byrom Street, is being repaired and restored for sale as a domestic property. The sale price, for its previous existence as a tired commercial property, was around £750,000.
‘If Tucker restored the properties and sold them he might make some money. He can't possibly be allowing these valuable buildings, both culturally and aesthetically, to deteriorate to such an extent they are condemned and have to be knocked down. He can't be allowing that, can he?’
Will Barry Tucker show some loyalty to his home city and fix these rare Manchester buildings that were Grade II listed as far back as 1952?
Let's not hold our breath.
Our letter to Mishcon de Reya
Mishcon de Raya
We acknowledge receipt of your letter dated 17 January 2023 which we received by email on 24 January 2023.
We refute the allegations, namely there has been some sort of intent on our part to incite our readers into action that may result in harm to your client.
To be clear, we refute your allegations and any liability for any alleged incident which has occurred subsequent to the piece we ran on Manchester Confidential.
We assume that when providing instructions your client made you aware we offered every opportunity to Euro Car Parks and Mr Tucker to have the right of reply over weeks, not just days.
Your client ignored the opportunity to engage with us and provide information as to what, if any, measures he has taken, or plans to take in the future, in order to fulfil his obligation as a property owner and an owner of properties of significant importance to Manchester’s heritage, to prevent further decline and eventual loss.
We reiterate we allowed plenty of time for this right to reply but both Euro Car Parks and Mr Tucker refused to comment or ignored our requests. Subsequently there was no reaction to the article from Euro Car Parks and Mr Tucker which resulted in a Tweet to chivvy him along. We are saddened that his response has been to try and bully us into silence.
We have now removed the photograph, which no doubt you are aware, was of the photographs which appeared in the Daily Mail.
The article remains because it constitutes fair comment on a matter of public interest. It is an opinion which any person could honestly hold, based on facts known at the time.
Should your client have an explanation for his gross and deliberate neglect of these important heritage assets for Manchester and the North West of England in a conservation area of the city we would welcome his comments and would write a second piece putting his side of the argument over why properties listed in 1952 have been allowed to decay.
It seems the phrase ‘fat cat’ may have caused offence. Please reassure your client that it is common English usage and is applicable here in a satirical tradition which reaches back beyond Gillray and Cruickshank. It appears you object to this tradition. That such a legal entity as yours should object to the phrase is astonishing. In any case we simply published the description that had already been ascribed in the Daily Mail article, thus it was always used as a quote in inverted commas in our article.
You appear to be alleging that un-named members of the public have read the Manchester Confidential article and travelled to London to threaten Mr Tucker and his family over his neglect of a heritage asset in Manchester yet you provide no evidence. We believe this to be an absurd construction in order to attempt to bring these matters within scope of a civil tort. We refute that any visitation can be attributed to an action or inaction on our part.
There is a huge volume of bad press and alleged callous treatment by Euro Car Parks of hundreds of members of the public who have received parking fines often with extenuating circumstances over the years. If another publisher has leaked his address, not us, we are unsurprised if there are disgruntled people wanting to talk to Euro Car Parks and Mr Tucker. This has emphatically nothing to do with our article and your attempt to forge a link is, as we say, absurd.
We appreciate however that unwanted attendance at Mr Tucker’s property is not only distressing, but potentially a crime. He should report such matters to the police. In the unlikely event we receive contact from the police which indicates our article has or could lead to unlawful action we will of course take their advice onboard.
You should also note the opinions in the article have been endorsed by a democratically elected councillor of the ward the buildings sit within and the community nearby. The city council have said they will be sending inspectors. The opinions in the article represent the indignation of a city. We suggest your client diverts his budget for legal action to bringing the buildings into a decent state of repair rather than lining the pockets of a legal practice. We could perhaps assist Mr Tucker by rallying local tradesmen into contributing some time and resource to help restore the buildings.
For the reasons stated above, please inform your client that the article will not be removed.
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