A DECISION to sell the freehold of the first phase of the Sands Project will be called into question by the end of the month.
The decision was taken by members of Scarborough Council’s Cabinet and now it is due to be scrutinised at this month’s meeting of the resources scrutiny committee.
It was called in by Cllrs Norman Murphy and Peter Popple, who both represent people living in the Northstead Ward, who disagreed with the fact the decision had been taken behind closed doors.
Cllr Murphy said he was outraged when he heard the decision had been approved.
He said: “It’s selling the town’s birthright. If the public knew how little we were getting for the site they’d be up in arms. Benchmark has now got the freehold and we’ve no further leverage over them. It’s not gone out to tender. It’s scandalous that it has been put in process.”
Cllr Popple said he believed the issue should be aired in public so that residents would be reassured nothing was being done behind closed doors.
“This involves the freehold of the north side’s premier public-owned site. As custodians of public assets we have the responsibility of ensuring decisions taken are in the interests of residents – now and in the future – Benchmark still have 147 years on the leasehold agreement, he said.
“We would want to know why this decision was taken as it was always understood that the freehold of the site would be retained by the council on behalf of residents in order that the borough would have control over the development of the site – what has changed?
“We believe residents should be assured that nothing is being done in their name behind closed doors and in the interest of open government.”
According to the minutes from the Cabinet meeting members discussed a joint report by David Archer, the council’s strategic director, and the council’s head of finance and asset management.
It was agreed that they would treat with Benchmark Leisure Limited as a special purchaser for the site and to sell the freehold of phase 1A of the Sands project – comprising of Kepwick House and Lockton House – to Benchmark for a sum which was identified in the report.
The agreement was subject to Benchmark Leisure Limited and Benchmark Properties Limited entering into an extension to the existing development agreement on the terms outlined in a council report from March.
In March councillors welcomed the new owners of Benchmark’s plans for the development of the rest of the site and they voted in favour of extending the existing development agreement.