An investigation into a controversial land deal in Lichfield says “abnormal construction costs” were the reason why a sale below the original valuation was agreed.
Lichfield District Council commissioned the report into the issues surrounding the agreement to sell plots at Leyfields and Netherstowe to housing association Bromford.
The planning application to build homes on the land has since been withdrawn following a public backlash, but the investigation has continued.
Among the complaints considered was why a £470,000 sale was agreed when a previous higher valuation was put on the site.
The report, published by Stuart Evans, legal director at Anthony Collins LLP, said the District Valuer had placed an initial price on the sites.
An offer of £470,000 then came in from Bromford factoring in the “abnormal construction costs” totalling £137,000 – although the details of what these were are not included in the report.
“The District Valuer valued Leyfields at £390,000 and Netherstowe at £265,000 both ‘on the basis of affordable rent units being constructed and assuming a subsidy of £40,000 per plot being available to a registered provider of housing but excluding abnormal construction costs’.
“The District Valuer concludes that the lower amount to be acceptable as ‘although the offer figure is below the figure originally put forward, this figure is significantly above both the unsubsidised affordable rent figure and market value housing figure and hence represents a capital sum that is higher than is likely to be expected from many other potential purchasers’.
“The best consideration could be achieved by the disposal to a registered social housing provider due to the grant funds they receive as a special purchaser and therefore would gain a higher amount than on the open market.”External investigator’s report
In his recommendations, the investigator said the local authority needed to ensure in future that it was continually assessing the price of land it hoped to dispose of.
“To ensure best practice is maintained throughout the project where time has elapsed since the original valuation a further valuation should be obtained.”External investigator’s report
Although the land sale had been agreed, the withdrawal of the planning application means that a final sale is unlikely to go ahead.
A council spokesperson said last week that both the local authority and Bromford did not “intend to pursue development of the sites” going forward.
The external investigator’s report will be discussed at a meeting of the council’s audit and member standards committee on 27th April.