Confirmed: Council spent £1m on seven-year compulsory purchase battle
- Credit: Terry Jermy
The figure paid out by Norfolk County Council for a building it bought, refurbished, and then returned to its previous owner has been confirmed at just over £1m.
Last week, Thetford county councillor, Terry Jermy, said the total cost spent on the former Cozy Carpets building would exceed £1m, but figures were yet to be confirmed.
The building, in Minstergate, was bought in 2013 as part of a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) in order to develop the Thetford Bus Interchange.
However, its owner, Nolan Guthrie, objected to the CPO, initiating protracted negotiations.
The building was then patched up, before being given back to Mr Guthrie earlier this year, along with more than £300,000.
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A Freedom of Information request by this paper has now revealed that the total cost was more than £1m to the taxpayer.
Some £1,009,194.86 was spent, a figure which includes works to make the warehouse structurally sound and watertight, legal, planning, design and Norfolk Property Services fees and a settlement deal out of court.
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• Works - £408,651.93
• Fees - £294,567.48
• Building transfer ownership and settlement - £305,975.45 (£300,416.45 net)
Mr Jermy criticised the council for wasting tax payers’ money.
But councillor Greg Peck, cabinet member for commercial services and asset management, said the settlement paid to Mr Guthrie was for all of his land that was used for the regeneration of the bus station, not just the warehouse.
He said: “We would ask him [Mr Jermy] what his approach would have been and as he believes it to be so straightforward, also ask why the rainbow alliance didn’t take the opportunity to settle the dispute when they were in power?
“Does he believe we should have risked tax payers’ money by going to tribunal with all the more costs that could have incurred?”
Mr Peck added that it had regenerated “a previously run-down area”.
Mr Jermy called the response “disappointing”.
“I’m surprised to see the response from Greg Peck,” he said.
“Frankly, if this is what he would regard as a success then I would hate to know what counts as a failure.
“The truth is this building has sat empty for years, denying Thetford residents with the promised benefits from the expensive upgrade.
“And now, having taken several years and having spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on upgrading the building, it has now been handed back to its previous owner, not only at nil cost, but with compensation to boot.”