LETTER: Sell the farms, lose the income
I read John Boyle's letter [March 25] on the proposed freehold sale of the downland farms. As freeholder, the council can ensure the land stays as it is, and can take any development value if it is developed. Housing etc is most unlikely, but a private owner might get permission for various non-agricultural leisure uses.
Once the council has sold the land, it can be freely sold on by the purchasers. The rent income will cease, thus reducing council revenues, so services will have to be cut even more than they otherwise would.
Apparently, the freehold is only to be offered to the sitting leaseholders. This is a public asset, and councils have for many years been required to obtain the ‘best consideration reasonably obtainable’ when such assets are sold voluntarily. If the council rules out selling competitively, maybe directly to an investor, then how can the council ensure getting the ‘best consideration’ to spend on the unspecified capital projects which the sale is supposed to finance? It would be nice to know what these are, anyway.
It’s not as if the council hasn’t got £2m of pier fire money to spend, of which £1.2m is going on a ‘flagship’ restaurant. In due course the amount received will be known, if need be under Freedom of Information, and how it was spent. Then the public will be able to take a better view on whether this is a wise deal.
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