Council explains why it bought long-abandoned bus depot in Northampton for £3.3m without democratic vote
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The council has explained why it bought a long-abandoned former bus depot in a busy part of Northampton for £3.3million without a democratic vote.
A decision as big as this would normally go before a cabinet meeting, but this has not. Instead it was green lighted by Conservative councillor Andre Gonzalez de Savage, chair of the Place Overview and Scrutiny Committee
Explaining this move in a report, WNC said: ”The current owner of the site wishes to sell the site with immediate effect and there wouldn't be adequate time to take the decision through the normal decision-making process and the Council's opportunity to purchase the land will be lost to other bidders. A report will be taken to Full Council on the November 30 to report the decision taking in accordance with the urgency procedures.”
The site is set to be converted into ‘high-quality’ homes, according to WNC.
Explaining this decision, a WNC spokesman said the acquisition of the site will ‘enable the regeneration of a large brownfield site within West Northamptonshire’, ‘support the regeneration and economic wellbeing of West Northamptonshire’, and ‘deliver a housing scheme to address the needs of the local community’.
The spokesman added: “Without intervention, it is likely that the site would be sold to a developer who wishes to use the site for industrial and warehousing end use. This is likely to have an adverse effect on the surrounding area and contribute to the decline of the town centre.“Alternative decision to not proceed with the acquisition would mean that the site would be likely sold to a developer who could land bank the site or could bring forward low-grade uses. Given the challenges of the site, it is also possible that the site could continue to sit vacant adding to the negative perception of the town centre and beyond.”
Chair of St James’ Residents’ Association, Graham Croucher, has criticised WNC’s handling of the scheme.
Mr Croucher said: “Published a day after the announcement of depot purchase, the leader’s report mentions nothing of preserving the building frontage nor consultation with stakeholders.
“The report thereafter is contradictory within itself and it is not clear what will actually be developed on the site. It is clear within, though, that they (WNC) only wish to retain the Transport Offices and sweep away the rest. It would seem none of the figures quite add up yet, with demolition and clean up costs an unknown quantity to add to the overall costs, indeed overall, a loss is what will be achieved despite attempts to show a cost neutral position. The fact that scrutiny was unable to be done on the purchase, and therefore the costs, will be of concern to some, given the previous purchase costs.
“Heritage, despite the council's assertions, seems to be a low priority in favour of as yet an unspecified content of development. The report completely ignores the historical aspect of this site.
“We urge the council to stick to what they published the day before and provide a robust, meaningful consultation with local stakeholders and historical groups. Listen to residents.”