Hartlepool Council says it will only sell land ‘at the right site at the right time’ to make up £2m shortfall

Denise Ogden

Denise Ogden

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CIVIC bosses say they will only sell council-owned land at the right time and price as they look to make up a £2m budget shortfall.

Hartlepool Borough Council has set a target of bringing in £6.5m by 2015-16 by selling land owned by the local authority to developers.

The council is expecting to have secured around £2.3m by the end of this financial year, leaving £4.2m left to secure but finance chiefs say the current figure is £2m less than forecasted at this stage.

But senior officers say the market is regularly monitored and say they will only sell “the right sites at the right time”.

The council’s finance and policy committee met recently to hear the latest information about the council’s capital receipts programme.

Denise Ogden, director of regeneration and neighbourhoods, said: “The report highlights the continuing requirement to achieve capital receipts of £6.5m to fund approved capital expenditure commitments.

“By the end of the current financial year it is anticipated capital receipts of approximately £2.3m will have been achieved, leaving £4.2m to be achieved to fund forecast expenditure commitments.

“It is anticipated that owing to the different phasing of capital expenditure commitments and the phasing of capital receipts there will be a temporary funding shortfall in 2013-14 of £2.095m.

“This will need to be funded from prudential borrowing.”

Recently the sale of land at Tanfield Road has been completed and contracts have been exchanged on Foggy Furze ahead of a new housing development while an “acceptable tender” has been received for the land at the Education Development Centre, in Seaton Lane, in total all three sites extend in total to 11 acres.

But Mrs Ogden added: “The report indicates that it will be extremely challenging to achieve the capital receipts targets and there remains a risk that this target takes longer to achieve than forecast, which would result in an un-budgeted pressure in 2015-16.

“There is also a risk that the target is not achieved at all, which would result in a permanent budget pressure.”

Conservative group leader, councillor Ray Wells, raised concerns that in the past deposits hadn’t always been taken when sites were sold but Mrs Ogden said lessons had been learned and that the local authority always now asks for a 10 per cent deposit.

Coun Wells said he was pleased to hear that but independent councillor Paul Thompson said at times the council can appear to be a “soft-touch” when it comes to dealing with developers.

To help councillors when it comes to potential land sales in the future it was agreed that a report comes back to the committee with a schedule of the land owned and leased out by the council.