PERSIMMON Homes, would-be developer of Bootham Crescent, has acquired a ten per cent stake in the company which owns the ground, the Evening Press can reveal today.

Documents filed with Companies House show the York-based housebuilders have bought 20,000 shares in Bootham Crescent Holdings from current and former York City directors Douglas Craig, Barry Swallow, John Quickfall and Colin Webb.

The annual returns do not show how much Persimmon - which lodged an application with the City of York Council in August to build 93 homes on Bootham Crescent - paid for the shares.

Former club chairman Douglas Craig was unwilling today to divulge how much he received. However, he dismissed as "totally wrong" speculation that approximately £450,000 may have been handed over, with the majority going to him.

The figure of £450,000 would arise if the shares were bought on the basis of the estimated £4.5 million price tag posted in the original sales document issued by Bootham Crescent Holdings in January. Mr Craig said no more shares had been bought since the annual returns were filed, and nor did he anticipate any more being purchased at this stage.

Persimmon managing director Ian Hessay said today that the company had a conditional contract to buy Bootham Crescent, subject to planning permission and vacant possession.

The shares had simply been bought to secure the deposit on the contract. He said there was no intention to buy more.

He would not divulge how much had been paid for the shares, saying he never revealed such figures.

The returns show that in April, Mr Craig, Mr Quickfall, Mr Swallow and Mr Webb each transferred ownership of 454 shares to their respective spouses.

A few days later, those shares, plus a percentage of the remaining shares owned by Mr Craig, Mr Quickfall, Mr Swallow and Mr Webb, were also transferred to Persimmon Homes.

The document shows that Persimmon now owns ten per cent of Bootham Crescent Holdings. Between them, Mr Craig, Mr Swallow, Mr Webb and Mr Quickfall own 83 per cent. The balance of shares is held by approximately 170 shareholders.

Mr Webb and Mr Swallow remain on the board of the football club, although Mr Craig, who still attends home matches, and Mr Quickfall have stood down. In a letter to Bootham Crescent Holdings shareholders dated April 29, 2002, and leaked to the Evening Press, Mr Craig wrote that the board of Bootham Crescent Holdings had "entered into a conditional contract to sell the freehold at Bootham Crescent".

It added: "The conditional contract is dependent on receipt of a satisfactory planning consent, the outcome of which will not be known for several months at the earliest."

It also stated: "The board does not consider it appropriate to make any distribution to shareholders unless and until Bootham Crescent is sold."

Last month, the York City Supporters' Trust claimed it had faced a wall of silence from Persimmon over their plans to build on Bootham Crescent, the football club's home for the last 70 years.

Sophie McGill, of the supporters' trust, said today: "This revelation indicates that the negotiations between Bootham Crescent Holdings and Persimmon are well advanced.

"The anxiety of the trust is that the sale of Bootham Crescent is vastly outpacing the development of a new ground."

Club chairman John Batchelor today said he still wanted to buy Bootham Crescent Holdings. He said he hoped to make an announcement soon.

Updated: 15:13 Wednesday, October 09, 2002