Support for Norfolk County Council idea which could see land sold to protect frontline services

County Hall in Norwich. Photo: Steve Adams

County Hall in Norwich. Photo: Steve Adams - Credit: Archant

A new company designed to generate cash for Norfolk County Council by building and selling homes on its land is one step closer to becoming a reality.

Councillors on the authority's new business and property committee backed a proposal to create a council-owned spin-off firm after meeting at County Hall today.

If approved by full council, it will be called Repton Developments - after celebrated 19th century landscape designer Humphrey Repton who created Catton Park and Sheringham Park.

Repton Developments will use land deemed surplus to the council's needs to build homes on.

Profit made after land and homes are sold will then go back into County Hall's coffers - to help head off cuts to services.

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The council has set itself a target to make £20m over the next three years disposing of land and properties which it owns.

It has a property portfolio of 1,186 buildings and land, including the County Farms estate, schools, libraries, offices and fire stations.

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The council's head of property Simon Hughes said: 'It [Repton Developments] provides an opportunity to maximise the value of the land.'

Committee members backed the idea but there were some concerns.

Labour Magdalen councillor Colleen Walker said: 'I want to know about public accountability. If this fails, who pays for it?'

Labour Thetford West councillor Terry Jermy agreed with the idea 'in principle' but questioned the company's future governance and raised the importance of building affordable homes.

Simon George, executive director of finance for the council, said: 'Repton Developments will be a company owned by Norfolk County Council, which will be liable for it. We have cash in the bank, the land and the expertise. We have a competitive edge. We will make a success of it. There will be a high degree of transparency.'

He added the business and property committee would decide on the disposal of council assets which would be sold at market value and receive regular financial updates.

The company's board would include two county councillors, two external non-executive directors and four county council officers, with financing via County Hall loans.

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