£19m council land sell-off to bankroll Norwich Western Link
- Credit: Norfolk County Council
Some £19m worth of land and properties owned by Norfolk County Council is to be sold off to help bankroll the controversial Norwich Western Link road.
County Hall's Conservative-controlled cabinet this week agreed to create a special pot of cash for the 3.9 mile road for money generated by selling off council assets.
The cabinet agreed on Monday, August 2, to kick start that reserve fund with £2.9m generated through the sale of land in Hopton-on-Sea.
The council sold that land, off Lowestoft Road, to its own housing company Repton - to build 200 new homes.
The council set up Repton in 2017 to maximise income from its land by selling it, with Repton and its developers building homes which are then sold.
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The council borrows money to lend to Repton and charges the company higher interest rates than the rates on the money the council borrowed.
Councillors and officers are on the board of Repton, along with two independent members.
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The council says it can raise a further £16.3m from future land and property sales - and that will reduce the need to borrow money to underwrite the cost of the road, which would link the Northern Distributor Road to the A47 west of Norwich.
Andrew Jamieson, cabinet member for finance at Norfolk County Council, said: "Managing our assets is an important part of our approach to the council’s overall finances, and this includes selling property when it’s wise to do so to benefit Norfolk.
"The land at Hopton has planning permission for 200 homes and in selling this we have the opportunity to use the proceeds to invest in delivering much-need transport infrastructure for the county, supporting our economy to recover from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic and accommodating population and job growth.”
The council is hoping to sell land at Norwich Airport Industrial Estate, but says no decision has yet been made as to whether money from that could go into the Western Link reserve pot.
But Steve Morphew, leader of the opposition Labour group, which opposes the Western Link, said: "Asset stripping and accountancy tricks to bridge the yawning gap for an over expensive road scheme even before it has the go ahead does not bode well."