Sunday, 15 September 2013

Part 4 - Park Lane and Churchfields

Thanks for the feedback I've received on the blog posts so far.

One of the questions posed to me is about 'Community land going for housing.'

Part of the discussion at yesterday's meeting related to whether the Park Lane site should be sold for housing.

Whilst this is a simple question - the answer is not as simple as I would like - you see the law gets in the way.

All councils - whether FTC or CWaC when selling land are under a duty to get 'the best consideration reasonably obtainable.'  (That is s123 Local Government Act 1972).  The purpose of this legal duty is plain - any council selling a public asset has to set out to get the best price for it.  This is just what each of us would do as individuals - we'd seek to get the best price for it.

So how do you go about getting the best price for a piece of land - well simply put - you advertise the sale as widely as possible so as many people as possible know about it and can bid for it.  Also you don't restrict the future uses of the land - as this would reduce its value.

This is exactly what FTC did.  Having been approached informally by an interested party who wanted to buy the land - FTC resolved to open up the process and advertise the sale widely to ensure that as many interested parties as possible could bid for it.

Now I am aware of one individual who, at one stage claimed that FTC were looking to do some sort of secret deal.  Such a suggestion was always wrong and outrageously wrong.  FTC didn't invite the original expression of interest - but when it came FTC resolved to ensure the widest advertising and even delayed the closing date so as to maximise the level of interest in the site - after all if we are to use the proceeds of sale to improve the play areas we want the highest price.

On the assumption that the sale goes through - it will be for the purchaser to decide what he or she wants to do with the land subject of course to obtaining planning permission if he/she proposes to change the use or build something on the site.  This isn't a given by the way.  I'm sure FTC will, at its next meeting discuss the sale.

Assuming for the moment that the purchaser wants to use the land for housing a planning application would have to be submitted.   The effects and/or congestion on the highways would inevitably be part of the planning process.  CWaC's highway officers will have to be involved and they would make a recommendation based on their expert assessment as to whether the site is sustainable and suitable.  I don't know what the officers would say.

There is a broader question for Frodsham - and one that has been raised now for over a year and one that will be coming to a head in the next couple of months.  This is the local plan.  CWaC has just published the draft local plan for the years 2010-2030.  That plan suggests that leaving aside windfall sites Frodsham should seek to build only 250 houses in the 20 year period.

The sites suggested include - one already built out at Salt Works Farm, the site at the medical centre and the site with planning permission from the BT Exchange to the back of the Old Hall.

Given our demographics - we have one of the oldest populations of any ward in CWaC I don't think this is enough.  With people living longer we need more houses just to accommodate our existing population, leaving aside the prospects for sustainable growth.  Helsby, for example, has been allocated 300 houses and they are half our size.  I am also hoping, by the way, that we get more land allocated for recreational use too - and more employment land and opportunities around Frodsham. and the household waste site relocated...  Surely we want to be more than a dormitory town?