Council to consider writing-off £1.65m from controversial site sale

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County hall bosses are set to waive £1.65m from the controversial sale of Wootton Hall Park.

The Northamptonshire Police HQ site in Northampton is jointly owned by the Office of the Northants Police and Crime Commissioner (NOPCC) and Northamptonshire County Council.

Former Police and Crime Commissioner Adam Simmonds agreed to sell the site to the Education Funding Authority make way for a new free school just one day before he left his post in May.

The police portion of the land was sold for £3.45 million, although the cost of moving 350 force staff to a new site in Kettering is estimated to be £6.9 million.

The value of the county council’s portion of the land was estimated at £1.65m. But in cabinet papers to be considered next week, councillors will be asked to forego the £1.65m from the sale price.

Education bosses are facing intense pressure on school places in the county, with an estimated 31 schools needed in the next four years.

Because Wootton Park School will be built on the site, it is considered to be sensible to waive the £1.65m fee rather than the authority have to find and purchase another site on which to build a similarly-sized school.

The report to councillors, written by council officer David Waite, says: “Because of its duties as Education Authority in relation to the provision of school sites, NCC is generally expected to transfer land in its ownership to the EFA for the purposes of establishing a new academy school, at nil cost.

“The NOPCC will receive its full proportion of the site value, which is a net figure of £3.45m, and NCC will forego its proportion of the site value which as a maximum would be in the sum of £1.65m.

“The disposal at undervalue does provide benefits to NCC which can be weighed against the foregoing of the capital receipt.

“NCC is facing significant pressure to deliver new school sites across Northampton, including a need for additional secondary school sites. These sites are not at present being delivered through new growth communities and

section 106 agreements, and it is likely that NCC will need to secure and purchase additional sites to provide capacity.

“Whilst it is not possible to provide a financial value of an alternative site without knowing its location and characteristics, it is not unreasonable to assume that a new site secondary school site would require five to 10 acres of land for development, together with land for playing fields and ancillary space.

“In addition the proposed joint disposal of land to the EFA will restrict the access to existing and school use, so any development of the land for commercial uses in the future will require payment of overage to NCC and the NOPCC.”

The NCC portion of the land is use for the fire and rescue service as well as trading standards and archaeology partners MOLA.

The subject will be debated at the NCC cabinet meeting on Tuesday.