Council loses £50,000 on empty office rents

PUBLISHED: 14:08 19 March 2008 | UPDATED: 10:20 04 May 2010

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COUNCIL officials have lost £50,000 in income after failing to rent offices on a troubled high-tech business park in Ely. The four units in Angel Drove have remained empty for the last year after a company planning to take the lease pulled out in April. D

COUNCIL officials have lost £50,000 in income after failing to rent offices on a troubled high-tech business park in Ely.

The four units in Angel Drove have remained empty for the last year after a company planning to take the lease pulled out in April.

During that time travellers have set up two illegal camps on the site, smashing the units' windows and leaving taxpayers picking up the bill for the clean-up operation.

Now East Cambridgeshire District Council is to decide whether to persevere to find tenants for the units or put them on the market.

"This strikes me as mis-management," said travellers' champion, Liberal Democrat Councillor Ian Allen. "This site should have been secured properly and permanently.

If concrete blocks were placed along the car park it would have prevented access.

"It is down to people to protect their property and the council hasn't done that."

Last summer travellers set up an illegal encampment with eight caravans on the council-owned car park which serves the units.

Business owners complained that children were running screaming and shouting through the business park and rubbish was dumped close to their offices.

One company pulled out after complaining that the site had been fraught with problems including boy racers using it as a race track in the past and the travellers were the last straw.

In a bid to settle tenants' concerns, Business Against Crime was launched and monthly meetings are held between the council, police and tenants.

Two weeks ago more travellers set up camp in the car park after smashing a padlock on a newly installed barrier.

Conservative councillor Bill Hunt defended the council's handling of the problems saying: "I don't think anyone can say the district council has mis-managed anything.

"This is mis-management on behalf of the people who squat on other people's land and we can't turn the site into Fort Knox. To say the council has mis-managed this is political opportunism.

"This council is committed to investing in jobs and trying to create work for the people of East Cambridgeshire and here we are dealing with people who ride rough shod over the law."

Ely Police Sergeant Paul Rogerson, who dealt with the latest travellers' incident, said that officers had received no reports of damage and had made sure that tenants were fully informed of the measures being taken to deal with the situation.

"The communication from the tenants was generally positive," he said. "But if there have been any problems we would like to hear about them."

An East Cambridgeshire District Council spokesman said: "We have actively marketed the unit and received a number of enquiries but due to various commercial reasons these deals have broken down.

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