Project is a major lost opportunity

PUBLISHED: 12:27 30 March 2006 | UPDATED: 11:39 04 May 2010

IN response to Mr Burton s letter in the Ely Standard last week I would like to outline the defeated Angel Drove scheme. The Angel Drove project was a major lost opportunity. It could be financed without a penny on the Council Tax. It never needed money f

IN response to Mr Burton's letter in the Ely Standard last week I would like to outline the defeated Angel Drove scheme.

The Angel Drove project was a major lost opportunity. It could be financed without a penny on the Council Tax. It never needed money from car parking charges. Staying at The Grange will cost a fortune by comparison.

The scheme: Buy 32 acres of land on Angel Drove with planning permission for 21 acres of commercial development. All financed by a Government grant of £3million to open up a major site that could have enabled developments providing more than 1,000 local jobs and take the strain off the transport infrastructure north of Cambridge. Spend £5million (two phases) opening up the site, roundabouts, roads, power supplies, drainage etc. Sell 18 acres (two phases) over the next few years at an average of £300,000 an acre (income £5.4million). Commercial land on the edge of Ely is already being marketed at more that this.

Keep three acres and build new energy and work-efficient offices for the district council at an agreed contract price of £5.5million. The site would have provided all council services in one location. Additional incomes from the extra rents from an enlarged local Social Services Department and the release of the depot building at Littleport, coupled with saving on rents elsewhere and clearly defined savings in overall facilities and the management costs provided the revenue savings of £340,000 per annum itemised in the budget.

Sell The Grange site (£1.5million - hopefully supporting further retail development), apiece of rough land behind the sewage works and a small site at Potters Lane (£ 2.175million - for housing).

The council intended to borrow the money (currently at 4 per cent) to finance the project. Without any income from asset sales the council would never have been committed to more than £9.8million cash and the interest alone would have been almost covered by the identified annual savings.

It beggars belief that the assets would not be sold at above current day values but, even if the prices of land remained static, the savings would have paid all the interest charges and repaid the capital within 15-18 years. Thereafter, the savings could have helped maintain a lower Council Tax or paid for more services.

Of the land that was left, three acres was to be set aside, without a cost, for an edge-of-town park-and-ride site. The development of this site would have been partly financed by various 106 Planning Agreement money and a town bus service would have been established with financial support from car parking charges. This was an entirely separate financial scheme that was enabled and supported by the Angel Drove project. Plainly, car park charges would not have been spent on council offices.

The council would have owned efficient modern offices with a current market value of £7.5million rather than a rabbit warren that has less value than the land upon which it stands.

More importantly, employment sites on the edge of Ely and Littleport as well as possible retail development within the city remain undeveloped.

In February last year, the project was supported by 15 Conservatives, eight Liberal Democrats and two Independents and after all the ballyhoo over the summer only 15 Conservatives voted to continue.

We have already added an additional £70,000 per annum (equivalent to 89 per cent of this year's rise in the Council Tax) to the maintenance programme to cover the costs of staying at The Grange. We have been advised that the essential works could cost in excess of £2million.

We will do our utmost to limit expenditure to the essentials in line with our commitment to try to keep control of Council Tax increases.

BRIAN ASHTON

Leader of the Conservative Group

East Cambridgeshire

District Council

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