The controversy surrounding the sale of land in Lichfield to a housing association is set to cost taxpayers more than £100,000.
A decision was made to sell the land at Leyfields and Netherstowe to Bromford in 2018, but no public consultation was carried out as required by the Local Government Act 1972.
An external investigation has since been carried out, with planning permission for both sites also withdrawn.
But a report to Lichfield District Council’s cabinet by leader Cllr Doug Pullen has revealed that while discussions have taken place with Bromford to cancel the sale, the local authority will need to hand over a six-figure sum as a result.
“Subject to approval, it is recommended that the council pay reasonable costs to Bromford which amount to £116,856.97.
“This is to cover its costs in connection with the transfer of land and the aborted planning and site investigation.
“Work is ongoing to consider if there can be a claim on the council’s professional indemnity insurance to cover any or all of these costs but that will depend on the outcome of the external investigation and whether there is evidence of any maladministration or professional negligence.”Cllr Doug Pullen, Lichfield District Council
Cllr Pullen’s report added that the current cabinet’s view on the sale of the land was at odds with those of the previous Conservative leadership team at the local authority led by Cllr Mike Wilcox.
“No council would wish to find themselves in this position. Mistakes have been made and the process has led to distress for members of our community and wasted time, energy and abortive costs for a valued partner.
“This is genuinely regretted.
“The legal position is clear – in consultation required by statute the council is under a duty to consult meaningfully.
“While other common law requirements of meaningful consultation have been adhered to, the primary requirement, that consultation must be at a time when proposals are still at a formative stage, has clearly not been.
“Not only is this wrong, and needs to be corrected, but it also exposes the council to risk of legal challenge.
“It is preferable to address the implications of the errors made and deal openly and transparently with this thus negating the risk and necessity for legal challenge from any of those involved.
“The most fair and transparent way to address this issue was to discuss with Bromford the cancellation of the contract that, following a cabinet decision in 2018, was legally, and in good faith, entered into with them.
“This is the preferred route for the present cabinet who have made their position on the development of this and indeed any council owned open space clear – this is not something they wish to see in Lichfield district.”Cllr Doug Pullen, Lichfield District Council
The report will be discussed at a cabinet meeting on 11th May.