To consider the attached report on the new policy on the disposal of small land sites and individual properties.
The report related to the disposal of HRA assets and a proposed policy. The Council owned some 12,000 assets which included, properties, garages, land, pathways, unadopted roads, alleyways and grassed areas on residential estates. A standard assessment procedure (SAP) rating was used by the Government for energy efficiency. The Council would be looking at SAP ratings and costs so that if there was a deficit in income over the 30 years of the plan for an asset, the Council was looking to its disposal and to reinvest the capital into other projects in the HRA framework. The Project Director HRA, D Fenton, advised that two small parcels of land sold for £80,000 that the Portfolio Holder had approved had been used to reinvest in its estates. Therefore, the recycling of capital receipts of dwellings and land would be reinvested into the capital programme.
Councillor S Murray remarked that even on small pieces of land it would be quite useful for the Portfolio Holder to have input from ward members in the report on the decision and was this a legal requirement to sell HRA assets? The Project Director HRA, advised that Counsel had been consulted and the policy was asking members to commit to ringfencing income of HRA assets to create and plan places where people wanted to live. The officer was responsible for a decision on land below 80 square metres. The policy would ensure due diligence for land over 80 square metres. Officers could consult ward members and she thought a Portfolio Holder would want to know the views of a ward member and local residents, as it was about creating better places. Councillor J H Whitehouse also thought ward members should be involved and hoped it would take place in future.
Councillor D Wixley’s concern was around allotments where the report detailed an allotment “was not necessary and was surplus to requirements” and that the Council had “actively promoted and publicised the availability of other sites and had consulted with the National Allotment Society”. He wanted reassurance that every effort would be made before such actions were taken. Also, on land being disposed of and where the Council included maintenance costs, when the land had been sold could it still be maintained adequately? In his ward there was an empty pub site the Council owned that it was leasing out but was often subject to fly-tipping. The Council would not deal with the fly-tipping as he had been advised that this was the responsibility of the leaseholder. The Project Director HRA was aware of how important allotments were with Covid and mental health issues because people really needed to get out and allotments helped people achieve this. The Council could not dispose of an allotment without the permission of the Secretary of State and would not, because allotments were a much-needed resource, and people could benefit from planters. Fly-tipping was a blight on land, so Councillor Wixley was asked to inform the Project Director of the fly-tipping at the pub site so that she could investigate.
Councillor D Sunger asked if the sites of small pieces of land had been identified? The Project Director HRA replied that the Estate and Land Team had been restructured and was scoping out parcels of land for planting schemes, disposal or to be sold to an occupier, who would be responsible for maintaining it. In terms of HRA land, the Council knew the number of sites it had, and a report would be going to Cabinet for approval.
(1) That the Committee reviewed the new policy on the disposal of small land sites and individual properties with all receipts ringfenced for HRA functions.