Anston: Anger over £254,000 secret land deal

Anston Parish Council has bought a piece of land off Rackford Road to protect it being taken out of the greenbelt (w131009-2a)
Anston Parish Council has bought a piece of land off Rackford Road to protect it being taken out of the greenbelt (w131009-2a)

Anston Parish Council has come under fire for spending £254,000 of public money on a piece of land to protect it from development.

The purchase was revealed in the council’s Autumn newsletter, saying details of the deal had been kept secret until now by request of the land owner.

But this has angered residents who claim they should have had a say on how their money was being spent.

The 32 acre field between Rackford Road and Anston Stones Wood is the site for the annual steam rally, and will now be kept for recreational use.

It was originally offered to the council back in 2001 by a local farmer who wished to keep it safe from development, but not until he retired.

The council said it was offered at a fixed price, which was only accepted after an independent valuation put the land at £320,000.

The council actually paid £179,000 including stamp duty and other costs, using a loan from the Public Works Loans Board. An interest rate of 3.75 per cent is fixed over six years, making the total amount repayable more than £254,000.

“We consulted with the public in 2004 and 2009 through our community surveys, asking if people wanted us to buy pieces of land to protect them for community use,” said parish council chairman Coun John Ireland.

“Those people who replied said they valued living in Anston because of the easy access to the countryside and were in favour of us buying land to safeguard the village.”

But Coun Ireland admitted only a handful of people completed the surveys.

He added: “The man that owns the land is an Anston man who wanted the land to remain under village ownership. He said we must keep the deal private so as not to attract offers from developers.”

Local resident Tim Wells said: “Before the land was purchased there should have been further approval from the people of Anston.”

“I don’t believe it was necessary to purchase this piece of land as it was protected under current green belt planning laws.”