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Monday, September 16, 2019

Councillors clash over Laxton village purchase plans

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Councillors have clashed over a proposal to buy a nationally significant village from the Crown Estate.

Laxton village, which is near the A1 north of Newark, has the last remaining ‘open field’ system in the UK.

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The system, which in medieval times was commonplace throughout Europe, involves separating fields into narrow strips and means close co-operation is required between those who farm the land.

It is currently owned by the Crown Estate, a company which owns property on behalf of the Queen, which has indicated it is considering selling it.

This week, the Conservative-led Nottinghamshire County Council and Nottingham Trent University agreed to express an interest in buying the site.

The exact price of the site is not yet known, but one councillor estimated it would be ‘between £7 and £9 million.’

With the potential deal at an early stage, no money has been spent.

Conservative councillors say it could secure a nationally significant asset for the people of Nottinghamshire.

But Labour opposed the idea, saying at a time of severe budget pressure, the council should not even be considering spending the money.

Conservative councillor Bruce Laughton said: “This is akin to a World Heritage Site, in fact I’m sure if you applied to the relevant authorities you would get World Heritage status, it’s that important.”

“The reason the county council needs to get involved with this is to protect the integrity of the site for future generations.”

“If this was a coal field site then Labour would be supporting it. The issue lies because it’s a leafy village in rural Nottinghamshire, and not where their support is.”

Labour Councillor John Peck, who represents Sherwood Forest, referenced a recent decision by the council to cut the benefits more than 2,000 Notts people with disabilities can keep before they are asked to contribute up to £56 a week to their care.

He said: “This council is rising charges to some of its most vulnerable people, and then we’re talking about purchasing a big chunk of a medieval village.

“I have to say it really sets out the priorities that we on this side (Labour) have compared what your side (Conservatives) seem to have.

“You are frequently telling us of the financial state the county council is in, and we’re well aware of that, so to even think about putting this forward seems to be extraordinary.”

“I wonder what the people of Nottinghamshire will think about the county council even considering spending this money on somewhere most people have never heard of or even visited.”

“It is not a good look for the county council at this present period.”

Kay Cutts, the Conservative leader of the county council who represents Radcliffe on Trent, criticised Labour for not supporting the plan.

She said: “It’s disappointing but predictable.

“It’s all good and well when we buy a pumping station, and it’s alright when this council invested the winding engine in Bestwood as a heritage to the mining community, well that’s alright no matter how many millions it cost.”

“But it’s not alright if it’s not in your area, or not something you’re interested in, and I’m a bit embarrassed by you frankly.

“Either you are part of Nottinghamshire or you are not. I will defend to the nth degree all parts of Nottinghamshire, without being partisan in any way.

“The partisanship you have shown today doesn’t do you any credit at all.”

Labour leader Councillor Alan Rhodes, who represents Worksop North Ward: “I don’t understand why we would even express an interest. Where is the interest to the ratepayers of Nottinghamshire in getting involved in something like this?

“I’m not at all sure why we should be even considering this. There will be financial implications of several millions of pounds, and I need to be able to go out to my constituents and tell them that by supporting this we’re doing the right thing for them and for the people on Nottinghamshire. How can I do that?”

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