Contaminated Nene Waterfront land has no value

EXCLUSIVE By John Elworthy BUSINESSMAN Malcolm Starr was left reeling this week after agents for the £50 million Nene Waterfront development withdrew their provisional £375,000 offer for his land and said his sites were now worthless. The agents, acting o

EXCLUSIVE By John Elworthy

BUSINESSMAN Malcolm Starr was left reeling this week after agents for the £50 million Nene Waterfront development withdrew their provisional £375,000 offer for his land and said his sites were now worthless.

The agents, acting on behalf of Fenland District Council, said costs of remediating the contaminated sites had rocketed and were now "unlikely to be less than £2.2million and may exceed £3 million."

The figures were given by Jeremy Proctor of Bidwells who said Mr Starr's 17,000 square metres of riverside land - which Fenland Council recently bought by compulsory purchase- "has a negative value, or for the purposes of compensation, a nil value."


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He added: "It is evident that the value of these sites in a clean and remediated condition is substantially less than the cost of decontamination."

Offering Mr Starr and his associated companies who own the land no hope of payment of any kind, Mr Proctor also pointed out that he owed them money for part payment of the original £30,000 report into contamination.

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"I note that under the arrangements agreed with Fenland and Savills, then acting on behalf of the council, that you are to reimburse one half of the cost of carrying out the environmental land quality survey. I understand this has not been recovered yet."

Mr Proctor said it was not surprising Mr Starr was not entitled to any compensation "bearing in mind the nature of a large part of your properties, those being the gas works site. These are notorious for pollution and contamination and it should be no surprise to you that it now has a negative value."

The decision has rocked Mr Starr and his team of professional advisers who must now decide their next course of action.

Land owned by Mr Starr and his associated companies comprise part frontage to De Havilland Road the southern section of the former Gas Works, a corner plot at the junction of De Havilland Road and Lynn Road, the northern section of the Gas Works and two small frontage plots.

Estate agent John Maxey is one of those advising Mr Starr but declined to comment on what their next steps will be.

Many of the sites now owned by the council were acquired through negotiation but Mr Starr's team believed his land, even after remediation was taken into account, could provide room for up to 100 houses, and attract a valuation of £1 million.

Fenland Council took control of the sites last month, and left Mr Starr with the only option of a drawn out appeal to the Land Tribunal- a process which could take a year and which could attract substantial legal costs.

A council spokesman said: "The cost of cleaning up four sites that were the subject of Compulsory Purchase Orders within the Nene Waterfront Regeneration Project envelope has considerably exceeded estimates and has cost a great deal more than the sites are worth.

"As a consequence of contamination levels in and around the former Gas Works site being higher than had originally been anticipated from an initial survey, Fenland District Council has been advised that no compensation is due to the former owners of the sites.

"While this may come as a disappointment to the former owners, the reality of the situation is that the cost of the clean-up renders the land commercially unviable without a financial commitment to spend more on cleaning it up that could be achieved by its sale.

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