Land sales will make money for whole district

Pockets of unused, overgrown and derelict land across Breckland must be sold for housing if councillors are to serve taxpayers fairly.

Of nine plots regarded as surplus by the authority, cabinet members have opted to sell at least part of seven of them for either housing developments or affordable housing.

That is despite most parish and town councils involved hoping to have the land transferred to them for community or open space.

An eighth plot could be swapped with Shipdham parish council for an alternative piece of land which would be more suitable for development.

At yesterday's cabinet meeting, leader William Nunn said while the decisions might not be what individual communities had hoped, members had to ensure they chose the option which would benefit the district as a whole.

'We're here to get best value,' he said. 'Lots of communities want us to fund projects. The only way we can support other communities is by making the best use of the assets we have.

'From our point of view, we need to decide what the best economic thing to do is for the district.'

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While discussing a patch of land on Middleton Avenue in Swanton Morley, which sits beside the area's cemetery, councillor Bill Smith agreed.

He said: 'We can't keep dropping to the default position of 'if the parish council doesn't like it, our hands are tied and we shouldn't do what's best for the taxpayer'.'

That land, which is outside the settlement boundary meaning it cannot be sold on the open market for housing, could be used for affordable housing and make the council �40,000.

Land management officer Zoe Footer told the cabinet the village's parish council was very much against losing it as an open space.

An overgrown former RAF site at Beeston, between Dereham and Swaffham, worth about �25,000, is set to have a small amount of land close to existing homes sold as affordable housing.

The the remainder could be sold or leased to a farmer as agricultural land.

In Great Dunham, three small pieces of land in the Litcham Road and South Street area are set to be disposed of. One will be offered to the parish council - subject to it paying legal fees - as a community open space, a second could be used for housing while a third plot will initially be offered for sale to Anglian Water, which has an adjacent treatment works.

The site at Shipdham, on Chapel Street, is one of the largest in the council's port folio and could be worth �500,000 on the open market but is subject to a covenant which means it can only be developed by Breckland council.

Instead the authority will aim to swap the land for another plot which would be easier to develop.

A former quarry in Necton could be sold to someone attracted by the idea of building a single home in a woodland, land at Sporle could be used to extend existing housing and a site on Ramsey Close in Thetford will be sold on the open market.

Land in Swaffham could be used as part of a joint venture with a neighbouring landowner or sold for a housing development.

Woodland at The Covert in Thetford will be transferred to the town council to be kept as open space.