Councillors query “above market value” land purchase

The Labour Party

Labour councillors in South Gloucestershire have queried the ruling Conservative Cabinet’s decision to buy a plot of land at a price described by officials as “above the estimated market value”.

The land is a play area at Williams Close in Longwell Green, the ward represented by the Conservative-run Council’s leader. A new private owner acquired the land last year and has given the council notice to vacate, having failed to obtain residential planning permission. A deal has now been approved with the price being paid at £17,000 above its assessed worth.

At yesterday’s Cabinet meeting the Conservatives voted to purchase the freehold land from the owner for £50,000, although council officials acknowledge in the supporting report that this figure was “above the estimated market value (circa £33,000)”.

Labour’s Deputy Leader Cllr Pat Apps was at the meeting and queried whether this represents best value for money. Cllr Apps (Labour, Kings Chase) said:

“I recognise and support the value of play areas to local communities, but it appears in this case that the owner is calling the shots and has the council over a barrel.  Can this expenditure over and above market value be justified as best value for money?”

Council officials insisted at the meeting that the price was appropriate and reasonable as it will secure a long-standing community asset.

However, the deal allows the owner to buy the land back for a nominal £1 fee, were planning permission for residential development agreed at some point in the future. Following the decision, Labour Leader Cllr Andy Perkins (Labour, Woodstock) said:

“With the £1 buy-back option, I am not convinced that this site is secure for local residents for the long term.  And I am sure that lots of other facilities and children’s play areas elsewhere in South Gloucestershire could have benefited from the £17,000 above the odds that the Cabinet has chosen to pay in this deal.”

Source: South Gloucestershire Labour