Monday 22 April 2024
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HS2 Land: Call to sell off Toton land ‘severely damaging to Nottinghamshire economy’ says council leader

Land at Toton in Nottinghamshire purchased for the HS2 rail project should now be sold off by the county council, it has been argued.

Opposition councillors from the Independent Alliance claim at least £20m could be raised from the sale.

They say this could be invested back into Nottinghamshire road network repairs for the next two years.

Conservative-led Nottinghamshire County Council bought the land as part of the now-scrapped high speed rail line which was planned to travel to the site, and Conservative leaders says it is still a key investment which shouldn’t be sold for a “quick win”.

The Labour group, who are the council’s joint opposition with the Independent Alliance as they have the same number of councillors, have also rejected the idea and compared a fast HS2 land sale to the council using a payday loan.

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The Government dropped the HS2 station at Toton in November 2021. HS2 lines will instead go to a new base at East Midlands Parkway, at Ratcliffe-on-Soar in Nottinghamshire, and HS2 trains will travel from there to Nottingham city centre on main rail network lines.

Councillor Francis Purdue-Horan, the finance spokesperson for the Independent Alliance, said:  “When we’re knocking on doors, it’s roads, roads, roads – every single person mentions the state of them.”

The council has already recently pledged an extra £4m to help Nottinghamshire’s roads recover from a winter which saw five times as much road damage as normal following storms in January and October.

However, Cllr Purdue-Horan said: “The land at Toton is a white elephant. The Conservative administration speculated on it, but now the HS2 plans are in a skip somewhere.”

His Independent Alliance group is proposing an amendment to the Conservative’s budget for the year, being discussed on Thursday (Feb 22), to include the Toton land sale.

However, the change is unlikely to be voted through by the council because the ruling Conservative group holds a majority.

Cllr Purdue-Horan added: “We’re in a better financial position than most councils, but it seems very complacent to assume we will always be there. We need to get to grips with the roads situation while we can.”

Council leader Councillor Ben Bradley (Con) has disputed that the Toton site is surplus to requirements.

“As ever it is disappointing that the Independents only think about what headlines they can write off the back of what should be a serious budget debate,” he said.

“What the Independents have suggested here would be severely damaging to the Nottinghamshire economy, it would destroy the opportunities that we have created at Toton to massively invest in jobs, housing and add billions of pounds to our economy, which in turn will create huge opportunities for local people for decades.

“The fact the Independents would take all of that away just so they could write a headline today is appalling.”

Councillor Richard Jackson (Con), Cabinet Member for Finance and Resources, said: “This is not the first time the Independent Alliance have put forward an amendment that is effectively selling the family silver in order to write a political headline.

“Every year they tell us to either spend more from our reserves or make short-term commitments to fund projects without thinking about the future impacts this will have on the council.”

He added: “The site at Toton is a strategic land holding that will increase in value as plans for other developments and new infrastructure in the area gain pace, retaining the land allows the council to shape development and ensure we maximise the benefits of the development to the local community by attracting employers to create high quality jobs, as part of an overall strategy creating 74,000 additional jobs and £4 billion in Gross Value Added (GVA) across the region.

“A ‘quick sale’ as the amendment calls for will significantly reduce the value we could achieve for the site, this added to the additional borrowing costs it requires would see a loss in excess of £5M of public money which would inevitably impact on council services.”

In 2023, the Independent Alliance proposed scrapping the county council’s new office at Top Wighay in order to fund road repairs.

Labour group leader Councillor Kate Foale said: “This is a reheated idea from a group uninterested in serious solutions to the state of our roads.”

She also compared the idea to a one-off “payday loan” which would not solve problems with road maintenance long-term.

The budget amendment will be proposed at the full council meeting on Thursday, February 22.

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