The public will be barred from part of a Lichfield District Council meeting where an update on an investigation into a controversial land deal will be heard.
The local authority has been probing how it came to agree to sell land at Leyfields and Netherstowe to a housing association without the knowledge of the local authority’s leaders.
Cabinet members said they had little option but to allow the sale to go ahead after it emerged that a deal has already been signed off by officers before relevant consultation had taken place.
Cllr Doug Pullen, leader of Lichfield District Council, said at the time:
“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
Chief executive Diane Tilley confirmed an external investigation would take place in order to find out how the deal had been agreed – although she said those involved were no longer at the local authority.
“Exclusion of public and press”
But an agenda for the audit and standards committee meeting next week has revealed that residents and the media will be unable to watch the portion of the session where the investigation is discussed.
The local authority says that the item would involve the “likely disclosure of exempt information” as outlined in the Local Government Act 1972.
An explanation of the decision states it is due to:
“Information relating to the financial or business affairs of any particular person (including the authority holding that information).”
The update will be heard privately at the meeting on Thursday (25th March).
The decision to discuss it behind closed doors is the latest mystery surrounding the future of the land at Netherstowe and Leyfields.
Despite the deal being agreed to sell the plots of open space, a decision on whether to allow planning permission – which drew a petition of more than 1,000 residents objecting to the proposals – was dropped from the agenda of a planning committee meeting at the last minute.
The item has yet to reappear, with Lichfield District Council only confirming that “ongoing discussions” were taking place.