Council accused of being prepared to pay over the odds to clinch Hutwaite land deal

Ashfield District Council has been accused of preparing to pay over the odds in a controversial land deal which could cost the authority £1.3 million

Tuesday, 22nd August 2017, 5:03 pm
Updated Monday, 11th September 2017, 12:47 pm
Land off Chesterfield Road Huthwaite under purchase consideration from Ashfield DistrictCouncil

The council is looking to buy the land off Chesterfield Road which would unlock a piece of adjacent council-owned land for it to sell to developers to eventually build around 100 homes.

The council says it is negotiating a reasonable market price for the land and did not want to comment on the price as it was commercially sensitive information.

According to exempt documents seen by the Chad, the council has been quoted £1.3 million to buy the land when an independent estimate values it at £1.09 million.

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Independent councillor Jason Zadrozny has accused the authority of being prepared to pay hundreds of thousands of pounds over the odds for the land.

Those opposing the plans say it is a bad idea to have access onto Chesterfield Road because of road safety issues.

They also point out that the planning permission for 37 homes on the planned purchase plot was only granted after an appeal after it was overturned by the same authority which is now planning to buy it.

This week council leaders defended their decision, which they say will bring much-needed housing into the area and bring in revenue for the cash-strapped authority.

Officers have been instructed to make an offer to buy three acres of land off Chesterfield Road, which has planning permission for 37 dwellings.

Buying the land would enable the authority to create access to a 3.3 hectares council owned site and link it to Chesterfield Road.

Officers were recently approached by the owners of two pieces of land off Chesterfield Road.

The report says the council has been quoted £1.3 million to buy the land when an independent estimate values it at £1.09 million.

Taking into account stamp duty, land tax and fees the total potential outlay would be £1,315,425 - which would be paid for by borrowing.

Ashfield District Council deputy leader, Councillor Don Davis said: “The owner contacted us earlier this year and asked us if we were interested in purchasing the land .

“Whatever figures you have got we haven’t completed a purchase, it is still a confidential commercial arrangement and we are satisfied we are negotiating a reasonable and market price.

“We don’t want that to be in the public domain - we are certainly not paying over the odds for it.

He said the council did not want to get into a bidding war.

Chief Executive Robert Mitchell said an independent planning inspector was satisfied that access from Chesterfield Road was suitable for the plan.

A planning application for 37 homes on the site had initially been submitted in June 2015.

It was initially refused by the planning committee due to concerns regarding access via Chesterfield Road and the land is designated as countryside.

The applicants successfully appealed the decision in December 2016 following an informal hearing where residents were invited to make their concerns known. This gave outline planning permission for 37 houses.

Coun Davis added: “The land has been in council ownership for a long time and it was submitted as part of the Local Plan .

“The Local Plan has been subject to two local consultations, both of which had this in. It is not like we have been sat on it in the background and not up front about it.”

The Local Plan will come up for a public examination in October.

He added: “We are looking at options for the site - it would be remiss of us if we didn’t consider a commercial opportunity. As a local council we can be fed into by the local councillors and the public as to how that development comes forward.

“We could make some money on it but there are other social benefits to the council delivering that type of development rather than a private enterprise.”

Independent Councillor Jason Zadrozny is opposing the purchase of the land. He said the council had been trying to hide the plans.

Coun Zadrozny said: “The land the council is planning to buy was only granted planning permission on appeal.

“We did not believe the land behind Clegg Hill Drive was suitable for 37 houses it is too dangerous. Chesterfield Road is on an incline and on a blind bend.

“Residents were very upset about that application. It would cause traffic chaos and be abject misery for people living there.

“They would be paying above the odds at a time when the council is cutting all sorts of things. The council is shutting Huthwaite Leisure centre which costs £40-45,000 a year to run.

“I just think if the council has the money to spend they should be spending it on better things.

“There are lots of places where they can build homes on brownfield sites, not where they can make a fast buck.”

He said the land should be preserved as a buffer between Huthwaite and Teversal.

Plans have been submitted for 118 new homes in Sutton after a planning application was recommended for approval by the council.

The proposed site for the new homes is at the rear of 249 and 251 in Alfreton Road.

Gleason’s Regeneration Ltd applied to Ashfield District Council for permission to build the two-storey homes.

If the plans are to go ahead, they would include two, three, and four bedroom, terraced, semi-detached and detached homes.

Gleeson Homes already has outline permission to build the homes on the land, which was granted in 2014.

The 4.18-hectares site is just a mile from the town centre, and has two fields currently used for agricultural purposes.

To get the go-ahead, the firm needed to follow stringent conditions including offering a £278,289 contribution towards local education.

The proposal is recommended for approval, but only if the firm complete a section 106 agreement.

Section 106 agreements are drafted when it is considered that a development will have a significant impact on the local area, that cannot be moderated by the conditions attached to a planning decision.

The planning committee will meet next Thursday (August 28) to consider the plans.