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Council to pay housing association £117k after errors lead to cancelled land sale

Lichfield District Council is to pay a housing association compensation of almost £117,000 after errors in a land sale.

An investigation report by Stuart Evans, legal director at Anthony Collins Solicitors, found that when the cabinet resolved in 2018 to sell the land to social landlord Bromford it did not have all the relevant information needed to make a proper decision because the public consultation required for the disposal of the public open space land under the provisions of the Local Government Act 1972 had not taken place.

The land is public open space and a number of residents objected both to it being sold and to way in which the council handled the matter.

Mr Evans found: “There is sufficient evidence to suggest that the decision made by cabinet on 4 September 2018 should be regarded as unsafe and should not be relied upon to authorise the sale of the open space land; further that the report to cabinet [that day] failed to set out the requirements to cabinet members that it was necessary to place notices in the press and allow for public consultation for the disposal of the open space land.

“It is not sufficient although it is recognised that the council in subsequent cabinet reports and decisions recognised the failure to carry out an open space consultation, to remedy the lack of appropriate advice and information in the report of 4 September 2018 to ensure that the decision was lawful.”

Lichfield entered negotiations with Bromford once the problem became apparent and the sale contract was cancelled by mutual agreement with the council compensating Bromford, which would withdraw its live planning applications for the two sites.

A report for the council’s cabinet next week said Lichfield would pay Bromford £116,856.97 and noted the council would lose the expected capital receipt for the sites of £527,000.

Council chief executive Diane Tilley said: “When concerns were raised both by elected members and by the public about the proposed sale and development of these sites late last year we looked in to what had been done and what processes had been followed and it became clear that mistakes in process had been made. 

“We commissioned the independent external investigation to ensure that we fully understood what had gone wrong and make sure it cannot happen again by improving our processes and policies.

“We obviously deeply regret that these errors occurred which we know have caused unnecessary distress for some residents.”

Mark Smulian

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