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Council delays plan to sell ‘useless’ land

PUBLISHED: 12:30 20 January 2014

A piece of council owned land on the banks of the River Otter is set to remain unused until the summer after civic leaders voted to defer a decision on its future.

Ottery Town Council is split over whether to sell the land, which is behind the Finnimore Industrial Estate, or to keep it and review the situation at a later date.

Members heard that the 1.6-acre flood plain field could be worth up to £25,000 – money that some councillors are keen to put towards other projects.

The land was bought using town funds in 2008 as part of plans for a footbridge across the river, but the bridge was subsequently built further downstream and the land has sat vacant since.

Addressing colleagues at a meeting last Monday, Councillor Paul Lewis said he felt the land had served its purpose and should be sold.

He added: “The land had a use when we bought it, but that strategic use no longer applies.

“I can’t see what the council are going to use it for, and I can’t see what a developer would use it for – I only see it as being a piece of land that is useless for us because it floods.

“Our responsibility is to use public money to the best advantage, and I think it is money that could be better used.”

Mayor Glyn Dobson said he was in favour of using cash from the sale of the land to help fund new public toilets at the Land of Canaan.

Deputy mayor Ian Holmes agreed – adding that the selling the flood-prone field could help the council ‘turn a bog into a bog’.

But Cllr Roger Giles said he thought a decision to put the land up for sale would be premature.

“It might be the right thing to do eventually but it is the wrong time now,” he added. “With all this development going ahead at Island Farm and the factory site, it might be a really strategic piece of land.”

Cllr George Hansford agreed: “Let’s wait and see what happens,” he said. “We aren’t desperate for the money.”

A proposal to put the field up for sale with a reserve price was narrowly defeated, and members instead agreed to revisit the issue in six months’ time.

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