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Bonkers Blog February 2013

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4 February (Part 1) - Contract negotiation, Bexley style

Howbury CentreYou will need a long memory or perhaps a gentle reminder for this one. Either take a look at look back at a 15 month old blog or take my word for it that in October 2011, Bexley council accepted a 2,280 signature petition from Slade Green residents expressing their concerns about certain aspects of Bexley council’s plans for the Howbury Centre which it had sold to Redrow Homes for new housing. The petition persuaded Bexley council to change nothing. Petitioning against foregone conclusions is never likely to achieve anything and this one was no exception.

Some details of the £8·6 million Howbury scheme remain available here (PDF file) but not all of them as the financial arrangements were designated a council secret.

Last August the BBC revealed Bexley council had been selling valuable land for next to nothing - for a mere £600 an acre on average. Some went to Redrow Homes. Was there a connection with the Howbury? It seemed more than likely.

After the negotiating the usual obstacle course, Bexley council was persuaded to give this much away…

The council and Redrow entered into a sale contract which is conditional upon a number of factors including the grant of planning permission. If the conditions of the contract are not fulfilled then the contract will be null and void and the council will continue to own the site.

That’s a good one don’t you think? Bexley ‘working for us’ council sells some land to a developer for a knock down price and offers to take it back if the council fails to come up with everything the buyer desires.

Where was the risk to Redrow in such a transaction? They acquired the rights to develop a large parcel of prime residential land with the potential to make a fat profit but in the absence of planning permission they can just walk away. Bexley council however must chip in a £8·6 million sweetener (schools and a community area) to seal the deal and ensure Redrow has plenty to offer their 380 home buyers. Heads Redrow wins, tails Bexley council loses. Does Bexley have to look so desperate when seeking development partners?

Bexley council has form for secretive financial dealing, those who attended the decision to land/building swap with Tesco will remember being chucked out the moment money was to be mentioned.

In a privately run company an arrangement that gives the seller little or no return whilst the potential purchaser can walk away any time it pleases would be laughed out of the boardroom. We pay more than a million a year to Bexley’s board of directors for decisions like that.


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