The great Norfolk sell-off - county council moves to do away with up to 20 sites it no longer needs
PUBLISHED: 08:23 09 September 2017 | UPDATED: 15:02 10 September 2017
Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2016
A theatre, sailing base and near-vacant office block are among 20 sites due to be sold off by a cash-strapped council to save costs.
The property portfolio also includes a ‘landlocked’ patch of land on what was once Norfolk’s smallest primary school.
The sell-off was approved yesterday (Friday, September 8) by the council’s business and property committee in a meeting at County Hall.
Keith Kiddie, committee chairman, said the sales made sense for the council and the communities where the properties were.
Mr Kiddie said: “We have a huge property portfolio, some of which are clearly more useful than others.
“Our officers are going through the procedure of looking at all of our property holdings to see what we need, how we use it and whether a disposal of the site is worth going though to achieve the maximum revenue back to the council.
“At the end of the day, we’re here to make money for the council but not to asset strip.
“If we can maximise our assets, we can grow the ‘council cake’ and people who really need it for things like child care can get an extra slice of the action.”
As part of the government’s cost-cutting programme, the council has to make £125m in savings over the next four years.
Simon Hughes, the council’s head of property, said it impossible to say how much the sell-off would net. However the council could gain a six or even seven-figure sum. Mr Hughes said: “It’s quite a mixed bag or properties that we are bringing to the committee.”
He said some properties would be sold to community groups, which would help them draw on additional funding, and others were being sold with the benefit of planning permission. He added: “Some are suggested go to auction, some are more suitable for leasehold, and some we are just declaring as surplus, which we as a local authority no longer have a service need for them.”
Among the sites being sold are two empty plots next to a future primary school in Attleborough, a Norfolk Schools Sailing Association site in Filby and land at King’s Lynn’s Willows Business Park.
Other sites are the now closed Mileham Primary School, another former school in Lingwood and Vantage House office building in Fishers Lane, Norwich.
Willows site not up for sale yet
The site where Norfolk County Council once planned to build an incinerator will not be sold yet - with councillors deciding to wait until it has been removed once and for all from the authority’s blueprint for where waste will be dealt with.
Although Norfolk County Council pulled the plug on the ill-fated energy from waste plant proposed for Saddlebow, near King’s Lynn, in 2014, the site still belongs to County Hall.
And the council’s waste plan still includes the possibility of the land at the Willows being used for treatments including incineration.
The council is keen to sell the land, but yesterday councillors agreed to wait until it is removed from the council’s waste plan.
In the meantime, council officers will continue to monitor the local market, particularly neighbouring sites, to identify the best pattern of development for the area.
‘Landlocked’ site at historic school to be sold
Another site to be sold is a ‘landlocked’ playing field at a former Norfolk school, estimated to be worth about £10,000.
The 0.77 acre plot at Brockdish Church of England Primary School off Grove Road, between Diss and Harleston, can only be accessed over adjoining land, which is in separate ownership.
The school closed in summer last year and its buildings are owned by the Norwich Diocese.
The playing field was declared surplus last year and the council’s head of property has advised the land would be best sold at auction.
When it closed the school was Norfolk’s smallest, with just 12 pupils.
The pupils were moved on to other schools or were home schooled. The school was originally a workhouse, but changed to a school in 1845 after the Rev George France bought the building for a sum between £100 and £150.
At its height in 1954 the school had 91 children.
New chapter in store for the Garage theatre
The team at Norwich theatre the Garage hopes that taking over the property’s freehold from the county council will help secure its future.
At part of the big sell-off, the council is in talks to transfer the freehold to the Garage Trust, which approached the council with the idea.
Adam Taylor, the Garage’s executive director, said the move would potential give them control over the what happens to the building in Chapel Field North.
Mr Taylor said: “It would give us the distinct ability to think about the property’s longevity in a freehold, rather than a leasehold position, and it would also remove liability from the council.
“They have supported us in the past and they can continue to support us by allowing us to purchase the freehold.”
The Garage Trust was established by the Theatre Royal and the former North Earlham, Larkman and Marlpit Development Trust to develop the venue.