March 13 2014 Latest news:
Wednesday, December 18, 2013
A couple who did not want to leave their home of more than 30 years to allow Thetford’s new bus station to be built struck a deal to be paid £24,000 of taxpayer’s money to remove their objections to the scheme, it has been revealed.
Thelma and Albert Paines were asked to sell their house in Minstergate to Norfolk County Council in 2010 to make way for the planned bus interchange.
When the couple, both in their 80s and former town councillors, turned down the offer, they were told that, if it was not accepted, a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) would be made to buy the house. A deal was eventually made for around £275,000 and the couple moved into a new house in Thetford in November 2012.
But a Freedom of Information request from the Thetford Society revealed that the deal included a £24,000 “loss-of-home payment”.
The county council said the payment was standard practice as the home had been bought under the same terms as a “blight notice” acquisition. The standard amount was 10 per cent of the property’s value. In this case a full “blight notice” could not be served on the couple as planning permission on the bus station had yet to be approved.
When Mr and Mrs Paines objected to the planning permission – potentially affecting its chances of being approved – the county council struck a deal to carry out the purchase under a compensation code which meant the Paines would receive the loss-of-home payment of £24,000.
A county council spokeswoman said: “A pragmatic deal was struck whereby the property owners removed their objections to the planning application in return for an agreement from the council to purchase their property under the compensation code that would apply had it been a blight notice acquisition.”
Mrs Paines, a former Norfolk county councillor, said the payment was for “distress and disturbance” caused by the move.
Solicitor’s fees totalling £3,500 and estate agent’s fees of more than £5,000 were also included. The house was valued at £240,000.
Mrs Paines said: “We didn’t want to move and we were happy there but I think we realised that the town needed a new bus station.
“I think we got a fair price in the end but moving in our 80s was not very enjoyable.”
The county council has already spent £795,000 on the bus station project on land acquisition alone. The scheme has a projected budget of £3.5m.
An old car lot on the proposed site has been bought for £350,000.
However, an extra £145,000 was paid in compensation to the owner due to planning permission having been secured for development on the site. Compulsory purchase orders are to be completed on other sites, including the former Cosy Carpets building.