Council look to sell off buildings bought for Thetford bus interchange project
- Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2016
Concerns have been raised that public money has been wasted after two buildings which were bought to allow Thetford's new bus interchange to be built were earmarked for sale.
The former Cosy Carpets warehouse and 4 Minstergate were acquired using Moving Thetford Forward (MTF) money in 2012 and 2013 as part of the £3.4m bus interchange project.
Now both buildings have been mooted for sale by Norfolk County Council (NCC), with a report to a meeting of its Policy and Resources Committee listing them among a number of assets the authority is looking to dispose of.
That is despite the county council being yet to pay for the warehouse, and around £600,000 being spent on its refurbishment from MTF money. A design fee cost another £100,000.
A compulsory purchase order (CPO) was approved for its acquisition in 2013, following an appeal by owner Nolan Guthrie.
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But Mr Guthrie is yet to receive any payment for the building as negotiations over terms continue.
The authority has also not set a valuation for the warehouse due to the ongoing CPO process.
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The house at 4 Minstergate was bought by the county council in a deal worth £275,000 in 2012. NCC now values it at around £175,000, although a price has not yet been set.
The potential sell-off has sparked concerns that public money has been squandered.
Denis Crawford, county councillor for Thetford East, said he believed nearly £1m had been spent on the warehouse overall, but the county council would not recoup close to that figure.
'It's not a great use of money. If we have spent that much on it and we just sell it on, and lose money in the process, there's no other way of putting it.
'The initial plan was to make sure it was put to community use, but that idea seems to have vanished.
'I was in some of the initial meetings of Moving Thetford Forward and I think the problem is that there was no plan of what to do with the buildings once they'd taken the land for the bus station,' he said.
A spokesman for Breckland Council, the authority responsible for the Moving Thetford Forward fund, confirmed that it was being consulted on the proposed sales.
He said: 'Breckland is currently considering its response to the proposals and will provide this to NCC in due course.'
A spokesman for Norfolk County Council confirmed there was no 'service need' for the buildings.
She said: 'Both were acquired as part of the Bus Interchange scheme, with portions of both curtilages being utilised as part of that scheme.
'The house and warehouse are surplus to that scheme, but as is often the case it was not possible to only acquire the portions required, and acquisition of the whole was the only way to proceed.'