Monday, 2 June 2008

"'Ere mate...what'll you give us for an old school?

Browsing the properties for sale websites, as you do, I came across this a few days ago. This building used to be Harrowgate Hill Infants' School on Thompson St West, on the border of Harrowgate Hill and North Road wards. It is up for sale with a guide price of £1 million.
When it was closed down a couple of years ago, despite a campaign by local people and your Lib Dem ward councillors for the building to be retained for community use, the Labour Council, desperate for money to shore up their crumbling finances, sold it off with indecent haste.

The property developers who purchased the building and land, applied for and were granted planning permission for the conversion of the school and the building of a new block to create a total of 32 new apartments.

No work has ever been done on the site, which is deteriorating, much to the annoyance of local residents. Now the property developers have put the site back on the market for £1million.

Oh yes, what I forgot to mention is that the Council flogged it to them for just £590,000 last year! So, if they get their million, the developers, who have done nothing with the site except apply for planning permission - from DBC, of course - will walk away with a cool profit of £410,000!

Quite simply, this stinks! This building and land was a community asset, owned by the community and used for the education of generations of local children. The building should have been retained for the use of the local community. But what is even more disgraceful is that the Council was so desperate to get rid of the building as quickly as possible - before an effective local campaign for its retention could be mounted - that it was happy to accept a bid which appears to be little more than half its true market value.

This Council has played fast and loose with our money. First it costs us £2.3 million by overspending on the Pedestrian Heart. Then it costs us another £1.9 million by overspending on the ETC, affectionately known as the Road to Nowhere. Now it has lost the local community not just a valuable asset, but upwards of £400,000 by selling off HH Infants School on the cheap.
Did the Council seek professional advice on what the site might be worth? Or, just like the ETC, did they go ahead without getting expert knowledge and advice? Yet again, the Council has been taken for a ride. When is this going to stop?

How many more stories of their financial incompetence will be uncovered? How much more wriggling will the Cabinet have to do? When is an elected Cabinet member ever going to accept responsibility for this incompetence?

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