Why did Sanctuary agree a 10 year lease on land at Littleport to a former council leader? The BIG question at public meeting
- Credit: Archant
In what turned out to be four fifths public meeting, one fifth press conference, Sanctuary Housing pledged to release details of a controversial lease to former East Cambs Council leader Fred Brown.
Simon Rudkin, one of two Sanctuary officials at Friday’s public meeting in Littleport village hall, promised “I will get you the answer” to many questions about the lease.
At the heart of the debate remains former allotments off Upton Place transferred to Hereward Housing and later Sanctuary as part of the sale of council houses.
Sanctuary won consent in 2007 to build there but dropped plans because of flooding fears.
It then got designated a woodland area, funds were sought and saplings bought and planted – but it soon became overgrown and an access strip through Parson’s Lane was leased to Councillor Fred Brown, who had earlier bought the bungalow at No 3.
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Cllr Brown, a member of Littleport parish council who lost his seat on the district council, fenced the area off and installed gates.
In recent weeks residents have stepped up a campaign to find out why Sanctuary agreed the 10 year lease, on a peppercorn rent, and the reasons, though not explained on Friday, will be forthcoming said Mr Rudkin.
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Responding to claims that the transaction “lacked transparency” Sanctuary insists the Parson’s Lane access was never intended as a main route through to the wooded area.
They also told Friday’s meeting Cllr Brown had in fact helped them “as it is his responsibility to maintain it”.
Parish councillor Debra Jordan told the meeting: “My holistic point of view about the access being blocked is who has benefited? Has the public benefited? I don’t think I can say they have. Has the woodland benefited by being cut off from good visual access? I don’t think so.
“Only one person has benefited by that access being blocked and that is the owner of No 3. Ask residents would you like this access back? Then we will have a true picture of what residents actually want.”
But Graham Nolan of Sanctuary insists the “lease was for the benefit of Sanctuary and the onus is on the lessee”.
Deborah Watson who chaired the meeting said: “Many questions were asked, a few were answered.
“On the positive side, we have a pledge of £2,000 to be spent as soon as we like, on immediate improvements to the site.
“We also have a pledge from the community engagement team to source better signage, and advice on wildlife issues.
“Mr Rudkin stated categorically that the access from Parsons Lane was never a public right of way/access point. It was a ‘historic use’ or ‘permissive’ access point. This poses another question.
“Whose idea was it to plant a community garden in a ‘hermetically sealed’ parcel of land, with no official access or egress?”
Neither Cllr Brown nor East Cambs Council attended the meeting; residents had cheekily left chairs for them and put handwritten reserved name plates on them.
Sanctuary has promised to attend a further meeting – and answer questions about the lease- in six weeks time.