LAND for a multi-storey car park in the centre of Huntingdon may have to be compulsorily purchased because the developer of Chequers Court will not hand it over voluntarily.

LAND for a multi-storey car park in the centre of Huntingdon may have to be compulsorily purchased because the developer of Chequers Court will not hand it over voluntarily.

Huntingdonshire District Council chiefs are baffled because Churchmanor Estates, which owns most of the Chequers Court area and claims it is soon to bring forward a planning application for a major re-vamp, will be the main beneficiary of the £3.4million 600-space facility.

In frustration, senior councillors have given officers the green light to draft compulsory purchase orders, but the process has already put six months’ delay into a start of work on the car park.

A parallel agreement with the other major landowner in the area, Sainsbury’s – which wanted to build a new store and petrol station on land it has just bought from Rustons Engineering (Reco) off Brampton Road – for a free transfer of land near its current store is all but complete.

HDC cannot make the order until a planning application has been submitted for the car park. That is expected to happen in the autumn, with construction work starting some time next year if the application is approved.

HDC wants the land for ‘nil consideration’ because of the potential benefit to Churchmanor’s clients – the stores moving into a re-vamped Chequers Court following the demolition of the now-deserted Inland Revenue offices – and has not completely abandoned hope of getting agreement to that effect.

If that does not work out and it presses ahead with compulsory purchase, the council will have to pay the going market rate for the land. But it would get the money back as part of a planning gain agreement when consent was granted for Churchmanor’s re-development.

The developer was last week accused of ‘crocodile tears’ by Sainsbury’s barrister at a public inquiry in Huntingdon. Churchmanor, which seems in no hurry to develop its own land, appears determined to try to prevent any other retails development in the town, he said, as we report on Page 10.

Churchmanor director Howard White said he believed the deal could be done without the need for a CPO. “We are working towards an agreement with the council,” he told The Hunts Post. There are a couple of little issues to sort out, but we are very close to [agreeing] terms.”