Saturday, December 11, 2010

Sandown - Deveron Homes want out - Council looks minded to let them go!

Also emphatic statement on who controls Nairn Common Good as debts head towards £3 million

UPDATE: Gurnites might be so minded to read the comment received on this post by Nairnbairn entitled "The stakes are very high - for everyone involved"

Item 25 on the Agenda next week at Glenurquhart Road asks members to allow Deveron out of their Sandown deal early. Basically they had option on the land via the missives for five years from the 10th August 2007. Now with land prices dropping and the reporter's decision they want out.
Sandown has turned into a bit of a nightmare for everyone. The Highland Council were hoping that £2.084 million from the sale would go to the cost of the community centre and now after getting dragged into the mess that some think is greatly of their own making they have incurred costs of £734.4K. The council has up to now agreed that these costs should be paid by the Common Good fund. The Common Good is now almost £3 million in debt and not even a single house has been built on Sandown yet to bring any cash back our way.

What happens next then? Well it looks like we are set to go round the course again. A report to the council form a bunch of high heid yins (William Gilfillan's name at the top of the list) states at item 4.1:

"The land at Sandown is a major unrealised asset to the Nairn Common Good. The offer from Deveron Homes was a substantial multi-million pound offer made at the height of the property boom and, although land values have significantly fallen since then, the site remains a significant residential development opportunity which would generate both local and national interest. The previous marketing of the site generated 12 firm offers and it is the view of officers that similar levels of interest could be achieved providing a clear Development Brief is agreed. Whilst the values obtained are unlikely to be of the same level of the Deveron Homes offer, there will still be a substantial receipt for the Nairn Common Good fund. As trustees of the Nairn Common Good Fund, the Highland Council has an obligation to obtain best value for its assets. "

Its going to be a bit different however, the Council having their fingers burnt the first time round now promise that a new development brief will involve 'working with the community '. Item 5.1 states:

"It is intended that the development potential of the Sandown site will now be reassessed with the preparation of a Development Brief. This Development Brief will be prepared taking into account the outcomes of the Public Local Inquiry and will involve working with local Members and the community on an indicative layout and mix of uses which is acceptable for this important gateway site to the town of Nairn."

Let's hope so. Let's get it right this time round. Maybe the best solutions will lie with the community and not with the failed policy of hoping that a developer will sort it all out for us. Read the full document being submitted to the council here.

This observer notes also in the document going to Highland Council that emphatic reference is made as to who has the final say on the Common Good fund. Nothing in there that reflects the sentiment that Sandy expressed at a word forum recently. i.e. that he was 99.9% certain that the Highland Council would not go against the wishes of the Nairn members concerning the Common Good fund. Here it is Gurnites - are you happy with this or do you think Nairnites should have more say in the decision making concerning the Common Good?

"Some members of the Nairn community have recently raised questions seeking clarity on who makes decisions on Common Good matters, particularly relating to the disposal of assets.
The Council’s policy is very clear on this:
“All 80 Elected Members of The Highland Council are “trustees for Common Good Funds and Associated Funds in relation to determining and delivering investment policy, including the purchase and disposal of trust assets, subject to the administration of these funds being delegated to Inverness City Committee or to officers” in terms of the Council’s Scheme of Delegation”. "


Anonymous said...

Interesting that this is being slipped in amongst all the cuts and budget reviews.

Anonymous said...

Why aren't Nairn councillors representing our interests in pressing for a veto on the 80 others deciding what to do with Nairn's money?

growtosow said...

perhaps we can now get some more ground for allotments at sandown. so even more folk can have the opportunity too grow their own fruit and vegtables.

nairnbairn said...

There is a vitally important issue at stake here.

The Highland Council document referred to above includes these statements,
"The land at Sandown is a major unrealised asset.... and
"As trustees of the Nairn Common Good Fund, the Highland Council has an obligation TO OBTAIN BEST VALUE FOR ITS ASSETS"

This assumes that the Council has a right, or an obligation, to realise or dispose of such assets.

The Council has no such right. The Council are trustees, not owners, of the asset. They are stewards of the Nairn Common Good on behalf of the owners, the inhabitants of Nairn (burgh or shire).

As Wightman (2009) says, Common Good "is held on behalf of the inhabitants of the burgh in the same way as property owned by a Trust legally belongs to the beneficiaries or a bank account held by a parent on behalf of a child belongs to that child".

A 2003 Court of Session appeal case judgment held that common good property "is owned by the community,and the town council or other local authority is regarded in law as simply the manager of the property...." .

In managing the Common Good assets as stewards, therefore, the Council is under no obligation to "realise" (ie sell off) such assets - indeed its power to do so without the consent of the beneficiaries is open to question. The Council does have an obligation to manage the assets in order to ensure that in terms of income yield and expenditure outlay, best value is achieved. But it does not follow that to achieve best value the asset has to be sold.

Indeed it could well be argued that to sell a prime land asset such as Sandown now, in a depressed market, for a lump sum, is demonstrably NOT realising best value, as the land would almost certainly be expected to appreciate in value in the future - and meanwhile, could generate a continuing revenue stream.

The Council document says that "it is the view of officers..." that Sandown should be offered again for sale. Council officers are unelected and unrepresentative local civil servants. There is no evidence to indicate that the community which owns this asset favours this course of action.

The four Councillors for Nairn might therefore need to think very hard indeed about what view to take of the legality, as well as the wisdom, of the proposed action their officials are recommending. Sandy Park's confident assurances may be tested sooner, and more rigorously, than he might have expected. The stakes are very high - for everyone involved.

Graisg said...

This issue shows more than ever why we need a Royal Burgh of Nairn Community Council to help manage our own affairs.
We could get that overnight by combining River,Nairn & Suburban CC's - there is a review going on now ordered by the Scottish Government - it lasts until the end of January.
Will Highland Council go with Nairn Public opinion and allow that to happen or will they deny the town that democratic step forward?
The stakes are high on that one too!

Anonymous said...

12 firm offers came in at the peak of the market. At that point banks were happy to lend developers the money on a development of such as substantial size.

More recently the banks have been going round developers revaluing all the land they had land banked and if the values had significantly dropped, in some exceptional cases have been told to sell on at a loss.

It appears that the council had hoped the sale of the land would go through and have spent a large chunk of the money already!