Councillors have been told they were left in an “impossible position” after a contract was agreed to sell two pieces of land for housing before any consultation had taken place.
Lichfield District Council’s cabinet backed the decision to dispose of the sites at Leyfields and Netherstowe.
But the local authority’s leader Cllr Doug Pullen said that while he objected to the sale, a decision by others within the council to sign a deal with housing association Bromford meant the price of backtracking now would be too great.
“The decision was made back in 2018 prior to this cabinet forming in a bid to increase the provision of affordable housing.
“This cabinet has now taken a new direction. We recognise the need for more affordable housing, but don’t believe it ought to be built on green open space, and have stopped other similar proposals going forward.
“I am opposed to the disposal – however, a contract was signed back in July 2020 with Bromford to dispose of this land without my knowledge and without the benefit of a consultation having taken place.
“That means if we vote against the disposal we will immediately breach the contract with Bromford and open ourselves up to what could be an expensive legal challenge.”Cllr Doug Pullen, Lichfield District Council
The sale would mean a battle to prevent building on the sites, which has seen a petition of more than 1,000 signatures submitted, will now be decided as part of the planning process.
Cllr Pullen said the agreement of the contract with Bromford had left the cabinet with few options.
“If we did decide to breach the contract, the likely remedy would be for the court to order us to sell the land to them anyway.
“That leaves me in an impossible position.
“We also can’t forget the financial implications – a capital receipt of £527,000, which we could just about swallow.
“But what I struggle to swallow is the potential legal expenses of breaching a contract, when we know the remedy will likely be to sell the land anyway.
“Our choice is to vote for the disposal of land, which I do not feel comfortable doing, or we can vote against the disposal, and thereby commit tax-payers cash to fight a legal battle, which will end up in the same result.”Cllr Doug Pullen, Lichfield District Council