Layer Road 'given away for nothing'

THE former Layer Road football ground could be given away for nothing by Colchester Borough Council.

Roddy Ashworth

THE former Layer Road football ground could be given away for nothing by Colchester Borough Council.

The council looks likely to cut its losses and transfer the land to a developer for nothing on condition that special elderly care housing is built on the site.

Before the effects of the credit crunch hit the property market it had been hoped that the land could be sold to a commercial housing developer for as much as �2.9million.

That cash would have been put towards the �10.23million the council had borrowed to help build the Weston Homes Community Stadium where the club now play.

However, the site has already been placed on the open market twice with no success.

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And following the economic downturn, the value of the land - which currently costs the council around �20,000 per year to maintain - has dropped to around �1.4million.

Councillors fear that even if sold at that price, any purchaser could simply “sit” on the land for many years until the market fully recovers.

Now they are to consider a proposal to dispose of the site to a specialist developer who would build special residential units for elderly tenants.

The council would reserve the right to choose and allocate the tenants, thus freeing up other public sector housing.

Rent would be paid to the developer by Essex County Council Social Services department and mean that some people, who would otherwise have to go into residential care homes, could retain some independence.

Nigel Offen, Colchester Borough Council's cabinet member for Resources and Business, said: “The plan was to sell it to a private developer, but the value is falling and falling.

“And even though we continue spending money on maintaining it, it is looking more and more dilapidated.”

Mr Offen said that the loss of the �2.9million could be made up with other sources of capital income, such as the extension of the lease of Lion Walk.

“At the moment, unless anything else comes up out of the blue, we believe this is the best deal,” he said.