COUNCIL chiefs in Stratford are faced with the dilemma of choosing between cash or community.
Members of Stratford District Council’s Cabinet are set to meet on Monday (January 16) to decide what to do with an unused parcel of land in Knights Lane, Tiddington.
They will have to choose between either selling the land or giving it over to the residents of Tiddington for a nature reserve.
The former gravel pit was gifted to SDC in 1957 and is subject to a restrictive covenant requiring that the land is only used as a play area.
But since the land was acquired an alternative, more suitable play area, has been created and the land does not appear to have ever been used.
The land is enclosed by housing on all sides and is effectively ‘land locked’. Pedestrian access is available but there is not sufficient width to allow vehicle access onto the land without acquiring additional land interests.
A few years ago SDC was approached by an individual who wanted to purchase the land to build housing. After consideration by the council it was decided not to offer the land for sale and to see what could be done to improve the access to the site and increase the value of the land.
The person who wished to purchase the land was not satisfied with the response that he received and approached the Department of Communities and Local Government with a view to forcing the sale of the land under s98 of the Local Government Planning and Land Act 1980.
As a result, SDC received a draft direction from the DCLG requiring it to sell the land.
Fifteen offers were received by SDC with the best offer being £133,000.
However, during the process of transferring the site, a counter-offer was received from a group of Tiddington residents, supported by Coun Kate Rolfe. They propose taking over the site and maintaining it as a nature reserve.
This proposal was accompanied by a petition signed by 270 residents and an application for the site to be registered as an Asset of Community Value. The application is currently being processed.
The residents do not want to pay for the site.
Councillors will have to decide at Monday’s meeting whether to proceed with the sale of the land or to ask officers to investigate whether the land could be transferred to the Tiddington residents for use as a nature reserve.
In official documents to be presented before the Cabinet a statement reads: “The relevant sections of the council plan include putting residents and community centre stage and responding to the climate emergency. A transfer to the community for use as a nature reserve would support both of these aspirations, but, in the alternative, the funding raised from the sale of the site could be used to implement council plan aspirations.”