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Legal wrangle over market could see council have to pay back £800,000 to businessman

PUBLISHED: 15:54 14 June 2019 | UPDATED: 15:55 14 June 2019

Norwich Livestock Market. Pic: Chris Hill.

Norwich Livestock Market. Pic: Chris Hill.

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Some £800,000 of taxpayers' cash could need to be used to pay back a Norwich businessman because of a legal wrangle over the city's livestock market.

Graham Dacre. Picture: Denise BradleyGraham Dacre. Picture: Denise Bradley

Norwich City Council's accounts reveal the sum has been set aside after a court called into question the council's decision to sell the market to businessman Graham Dacre.

Mr Dacre bought the 19-acre Hall Road site from the council in 2010 but leased part of it back to City Hall for its continued use as a livestock market.

But, in 2016, the city council took the controversial decision to surrender that lease, which triggered a High Court challenge by Norwich Livestock Market.

The market claimed to so breached an Act of Parliament, which required the city council to provide a livestock market within the city's boundaries.

At a High Court hearing last year, a deputy judge said the surrender of the lease was "negotiated in good faith, with the intention of safeguarding the future of the cattle market."

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But he ruled negotiations did not comply with provisions in the Act - and that meant the city council's lease with the livestock market had to be re-established.

The council's statement of accounts for 2018/19 have now revealed that £800,000 has been set aside in case the council does need to give back the money Mr Dacre paid them.

The statement of accounts says: "A judicial review concluded that Norwich City Council must have a property interest in a livestock market in order to fulfil its statutory obligations under the Norwich City Council Act 1984.

"Following the re-establishment of the lease and the difficulties in identifying alternative sites, provision has been made for the repayment of the capital receipt."

The city council said: "Since the judicial review ruling in 2018 and the re-establishment of the lease, there have been ongoing discussions about this.

"Our accounts simply show that we have made a provision of £800,000 in the event it is agreed that the council needs to repay that sum."

When asked what impact it would have on other city council schemes if the money does have to be given back to Mr Dacre, the council spokeswoman said it would not have an effect on the council's 2019/20 capital programme.

Mr Dacre was not available for comment.

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