Does this sound eerily familiar?

12 Nov

 

http://www.localgovernmentlawyer.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=16191:council-rapped-after-appropriating-land-designated-as-public-open-space&catid=58&Itemid=26
Council rapped after appropriating land designated as public open space
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Tuesday, 12 November 2013 15:10
The Local Government Ombudsman has criticised a district council after it appropriated land designated as public open space without following the right procedures.

The LGO launched an investigation after ‘Mrs B’ complained about the way Bolsover District Council decided to appropriate the land – part of its Sherwood Lodge headquarters – for development.

In 2011 the local authority had decided to explore the disposal of the land and buildings it used for its HQ and to review the options for new premises.

But officers were unaware that the site included land designated as a public open space in 1941. This was because it did not hold records from its predecessor council.

Members of the public, including Mrs B, had used the land for recreational purposes for many years.

Bolsover’s disposal and acquisition of land and property assets strategy – which outlines how the authority should consider any disposal of land – did not refer to land designated as public open space.

The council did not advertise its intentions to dispose of the land designated as a oopen public space as required under the Local Government Act 1972. Instead the decision to appropriate the land for planning purposes was taken at a meeting of the council’s executive from which the public was excluded.

According to the LGO’s report, Bolsover’s intention was to “thwart a village green application from residents which would have delayed the sale and development of the land”.

Bolsover subsequently decided to sell the land to a retailer and find a new site for its HQ.

Mrs B complained that she and other members of the public had not been consulted prior to the sale.

Recording a finding of maladministration causing injustice, the Ombudsman said Bolsover had:

  • Failed to hold records from its predecessor or to check the status of the land prior to appropriation;
  • Did not advertise its intention to dispose of the public open space and consider any objections before making its decision;
  • Did not consider the need for public open space within the locality when making the decision to appropriate the land; and
  • Did not follow good practice when it excluded members of the public from the meeting to consider appropriation.

The LGO said the publication of the report provided part of the remedy as it highlighted faults in the council’s processes.

Dr Jane Martin asked Bolsover to apologise in writing to Mrs B as well as pay her £250 “to acknowledge her outrage” and the loss of opportunity she experienced.

The LGO also called on the council to revise its disposal and acquisition of land and property assets strategy to include procedures to deal with land designated as public open space.

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