Council accused over land sale

A COUNCIL at the centre of the fight against the "ruinous" expansion of Stansted Airport was last night accused of hypocrisy over its plans to sell off nearby land to a property developer.

A COUNCIL at the centre of the fight against the "ruinous" expansion of Stansted Airport was last night accused of hypocrisy over its plans to sell off nearby land to a property developer.

Essex County Council, which also opposes the Government's house-building plans in the East of England, is backing a private developer's dream for a new village near Takeley, five miles from the Stansted Airport.

The scheme at Priors Green, which includes 650 new homes and a primary school, comprises land to be bought from a number of landowners and outline planning permission will be granted today.

By selling 138 acres of its land – enough for 250 homes – to the developer, Countryside Properties, the county authority is expected to make millions of pounds.


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But last night a local community leader accused it of double standards.

Terry Allen, leader of Takeley Parish Council, called on county council chiefs to meet him to explain their position.

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"The whole thing smacks of double-standards. They say they don't want the countryside ruined, but then they go ahead and do it," he said.

"Whenever someone has an asset and there's the possibility of raking in some money for it, that does funny things to people.

"This development was first touted in 1992, well before [Deputy Prime Minister] John Prescott mentioned anything about building plans.

"We are disappointed and concerned by what's happening. With the airport expansion, we feel picked on here.

"What were rural areas are quickly becoming urbanised and that's very sad."

In previous statements, Essex County Council has claimed the expansion of Stansted Airport would be "ruinous".

But deputy council leader Peter Martin denied the Priors Green sale was hypocritical, adding: "Whenever we have assets that are surplus to requirements, we first try to sell to another public body and if that's not possible, we then have fiduciary duty to maximise our return.

"The capital receipts from the sale will be ploughed back into schools, libraries and other services."

The Priors Green development is included in the controversial Government house-building programme, most of which Essex County Council opposes, Mr Martin added.

"This sale does not alter our position on either the housing plans or Stansted's second runway."

Guy Lambert, spokesman for Countryside Properties, said: "The land sales will be completed after we have received consent and work will begin in the autumn."

An Uttlesford District Council spokesman confirmed its head of legal services would be signing off outline planning permission for the scheme today.

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