Council leader defends sale of abandoned sewage works site for £8,000 despite bid by new owners to build on it
- Credit: Archant
Council leader Chris Boden insists Fenland Council was not ‘short changed’ when it sold three abandoned garages off an asking price of £8,000.
Cllr Boden was responding to criticism from a retired property expert that the old Anglian Water treatment works at Murrow could be worth £60,000 as a building plot
The exchange between Cllr Boden and Stephen Hodson, who worked in property for 40 years, is revealed in a series of emails.
It follows confirmation that the purchasers have withdrawn for now an application to build a three-bed home on the site in The Pigeons, Murrow.
Cllr Boden wrote: “Obtaining best value for surplus land held by FDC is especially important for the taxpayer.
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“I have ensured, since taking over as leader, that surplus land which is reasonably developable should be sold with outline planning permission so as to maximise sales proceeds.”
He said the land at Murrow did not fall into that category.
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Cllr Boden said outline permission was not obtained for the former sewage works because the site has a deep well and a drain running through it and access issues.
It was also felt planning would be refused and exploring this further would be an inappropriate use of public funds.
“This [application] withdrawal, however, backs up the reasoning for our selling without the benefit of outline planning permission,” Cllr Boden added.
Proposals for the house were submitted less than a year after the site was sold as being “suitable for garage/parking/amenity use”.
Mr Hodson said: “It seems to me that the rate payers of Fenland have been short changed here.
“Although the present house application has been withdrawn it is likely that a bungalow will be approved.”
He added: “The real value of a plot with planning permission is around £60,000 - quite a lot more than the sale price. Fenland should have at least have obtained outline consent for a plot.”
The new owners – all local – were told by environment officers that one if not all the garages may contain low levels of asbestos”,
Of the visual impact on the street scene as now envisaged “I do not consider that these demonstrate an acceptable character relationship,” a planning officer told them.