Flats freehold may be given away free

8/7/09 News'GV of the Sands'092851g

8/7/09 News'GV of the Sands'092851g

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THE FREEHOLD of luxury flats at The Sands is likely to be transferred to developer Benchmark, despite opposition from some councillors.

The council’s cabinet had agreed to sell the freehold for £25,000, but the decision was questioned by the council’s resources scrutiny committee.

Debating the issue at the full council meeting on Monday, council leader Tom Fox revealed that Benchmark, while still keen to obtain the freehold for security, had agreed to a number of concessions.

The company, which already owns the leasehold for the land, has agreed to place covenants to restrict the land’s future uses and may include an option for the council to obtain the freehold again in 147 years.

At the council meeting, it was suggested that the land should transfer to Benchmark for a price of £1 or free, with it transferring back to the council for the same sum once the agreement ends - in the year 2158.

Councillors have been warned by Benchmark that if they are unable to obtain the freehold, the Sands development could be put in jeopardy as it would weaken their position with the banks.

Cllr Colin Challen said he opposed handing the freehold to Benchmark, saying he did not believe councillors had been told the entire truth over the deal and the position of the bank.

Concerns were also raised that transferring the freehold could set a precedent.

However Cllr Brian Simpson said the council would become a “laughing stock” if the development collapsed over the freehold issue.