Council’s decision to hand over Estover Playing Fields to people of March “followed correct procedures”, review says

Estover playing field. Picture: Steve Williams.

Estover playing field. Picture: Steve Williams. - Credit: Archant

A review of the county council’s decision to give a 99 year lease - at a peppercorn rent - for the entire Estover playing fields to the people of March says “correct procedures were followed throughout the process”.

At a dramatic meeting at Shire Hall in January, Cambridgeshire County Council’s general purposes committee voted overwhelmingly in favour of a motion freeing the land to be developed for sports.

At the time, the Labour leader on the county council, Paul Sales, described it as a “scandalous decision with no costing in terms of lost revenue”.

Councillor Sales said there was a lack of supporting documentation supporting the committee’s decision to allow the disposal of the land, criticised the forfeit of a “significant” capital receipt in a time of austerity and argued it set a precedent for the disposal of other council owned land.

These concerns were raised to The Audits and Accounts Committee, prompting an internal audit into the decision.

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However, the audit review, presented to the committee on September 22, “confirmed the general purposes committee had sufficient information on which to base their decision and that the correct procedures were followed throughout the process”.

The report concludes: “The audit review confirmed that the decision to dispose of the land on a peppercorn lease basis to a third party was within the GPC’s delegated powers and below the £2million limit above which the consent of the Secretary of State is required.

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“It was passed by majority vote as is required by the council’s constitution and the amended proposal was subject to detailed discussion, as recorded in the minutes, during which members clearly indicated their understanding of the issues involved in the decision.”

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