Legal fight ends in defeat for Sheffield chef

Simon Ayres at The Showroom Cinema Cafe with some of the food
Simon Ayres at The Showroom Cinema Cafe with some of the food

A top Sheffield chef and his wife who fell victim to the property recession have lost all hope of recovering their £17,295 deposit on a city centre apartment after a devastating ruling at London’s Civil Court of Appeal.

Simon Ayres, who featured on Gordon Ramsay’s Best Restaurant show in 2010 when he was head chef at The Milestone in Kelham Island, said he and wife Nicola have spent around £26,000 on solicitors’ fees in the legal tussle since 2007.

In October last year, a county court judge found in their favour – but yesterday top judges ruled against.

“I am not happy at all,” Simon, aged 31, told The Star. “But you have to carry on. The only other way is to be sent into a depression.”

The couple tried to buy an apartment on Blonk Street ‘off plan’ in January 2007.

But their mortgage offer fell through while the new-build was still under construction – Simon says after his surveyor was unable to access the site three times to carry out a simple valuation.

The couple then tried to terminate their contract with developers Urban I and retrieve their deposit – but the developers claimed the Ayres were still bound by the contract and were obliged to buy the flat for £172,950.

Urban I sued the couple seeking compensation and the right to retain the deposit – but last October a county court judge ruled a delay of eight months in building the flat meant the Ayres were entitled to refuse to complete the purchase.

But Urban I challenged that ruling in the Civil Appeal Court – and top judge Sir Terence Etherton has now ruled the Ayres were never entitled to terminate the contract.

The ruling deals a death blow to their hopes of recovering their deposit – and as well as their legal bills the couple could face paying Urban I substantial damages.

Sir Terence said the build had been delayed to 2009 by, among other things, bad weather – and ruled the couple would have lost their mortgage offer even if it had been completed on time.