Sunday, December 06, 2020

Selling the Sandown Common Good Land - Cllr Tom Heggie answers Community Council questions. Part 3.

Readers can find part 1 here and part 2 here.

The meeting continued with Brian Stewart asking a third question: “It is a practical one, it follows on from the question about market value and best value where the trustees have a formal obligation. Legislation on developer contributions has recently changed.”

Brian's sound was then breaking up slightly and Sheena asked him to keep closer to his microphone. He restarted: “My point was a purely operational one about the financial implications of a proposed sale. The legislation now requires the owner, in this case the Common Good, to be liable for developer contributions on the land that is disposed of. That could represent a substantial proportion of any sale proceeds. It's going to reduce the proceeds of the sale whenever it happens by a significant amount. So my question was, if you like, a supplementary one - have councillors taken account of this in deciding on the position that the land be sold? But it is a subordinate question which I think is less important than the fundamental one which is about...”

Brian was cut out by Sheena who warned about the length of time left in the Zoom session. She said : “Basicially what Brian is saying is if this land was sold for six or seven million pounds and then the developer came along and built on it and if x number of houses were built and the developer's contribution was one and a half or two million pounds that would have to come out of the Common Good sale proceeds so the net figure would be, we'll say, four or five million as opposed to six or seven million. So that was the question, as regards, or the reason he was saying it – did you want any explanation from that Brian or are happy that that is just placed placed?

He replied: “No I'm fine with that […] I'm content with that.”

Sheena asked Tom if was happy to leave the question there.

Tom replied: “Just leave that one because developer contributions is a very active debate at the moment and in fact in ten days time the Council will, or a group in the Council will be debating that further.”

Sheena said: “That's good to know. Right, we've not got much time left but is everyone happy now those questions have been answered and that people have had a chance to speak?”

Joan Noble then spoke: “We still seem to be hanging onto this idea that it is going to be marketed as a whole and I think we have to emphasise Brian's point. There are a whole lot of different patterns we can do. We don't have to flog this land as whole at a time that the economy is tanking. Basically we have all sorts of patterns of leasing, of selling for plots, volume housebuilding is the least amount we will get for this land – partly because of the developer contributions but also because volume housebuilders do not pay as much as selling plots. We could make a million pounds from ten plots for this land at local prices. Now why are we talking about the only show in town being flogging the entire area for volume housebuilding for six or seven million minus two and a half developer contributions. It's outrageous and the trustees are supposed to get the best consideration that they can in reasonable circumstances and that is not happening. And that has got to go to court and really I do think that at this stage we have to iron out these issues before it goes any further.”

Cllr Tom Heggie

Tom Heggie spoke: “Madam chair, could I come in on that point? There was a couple of years ago an initial thought which went public before it was actually fully formed which included some of what Doctor Noble has just said. It included a bespoke development that met housing need in Nairn. It brought in money from the city deal, the city-region deal from Inverness. It brought in money from the Scottish Government. It had plots included in it. We were at the initial stages of that. It went public, it became a matter of public controversy. It became obvious that we wouldn't be able to achieve it within the time-scale of funding that was available. It would have made significant funding and investment available within Nairn but we were not able to achieve that. So we did try that.

There is nothing, there is absolutely nothing in this proposal that says we have to do anything for the whole project. It will be for the trustees, as and when, and if, indeed there is an if in there as well. And Brian used the word pig in a poke. That was used in e-mails that were exchanged by some councillors who are in this meeting at the moment. At the beginning of my time as a councillor, believing that I would be sold a pig in a poke over another project in Nairn which I found quite insulting at that time. I have not got to the age I am to be sold any pig in a poke. As a responsible trustee and others as responsible trustees who will look carefully at anything, as and when and if, this project develops and make sure it is the best value for the people in Nairn. I have lived long enough in Nairn, not all my life, but long enough in Nairn to feel that I have that responsibility as imperative. I was not elected to do anything less than that. So I do not take it lightly that I am told I will be sold a pig in a poke. Either at the beginning of my time as a Councillor or at this stage either.”

Time on the zoom session was running out and there was just enough time for Jimmy Ferguson to comment: “The point I want to make and I make this to my fellow councillors and to Tom in particular. The question that is being asked is wrong Tom. The question that should be asked is what is the best way for us to be managing our Common Good Funds, in particular, Common Good assets, in particular the Sandown Lands. The answer might be sell for development or lease for development or whatever it is. It's the wrong question that is being asked. We should step back a bit and debate and get agreement within the community, what is the best thing that we should be doing.”

That was the end of the questions for Tom Heggie and almost the end of the meeting.

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