Town council mulls plan to buy land amid fears over auction
- Credit: Archant
Residents and councillors in St Neots have contacted The Hunts Post to raise their concerns about the future of a plot of land which is being auctioned at the end of the month.
The lot has been divided into 10 parcels of land which are situated on a tree-lined path in the area to the west of Crosshall School. The sale notice includes various access roads around Wordsworth Avenue and Gainsborough Avenue as well as grass verges, footpaths and other open land.
The land is owned by a building firm and is being auctioned by Emson Auctioneers next Tuesday (October 30).
The auctioneers have confirmed that it is not being sold as development land and has a nil reserve at the auction to reflect this.
“This was part of a larger portfolio belonging to our client who wants to sell it on,” said a spokesman for Emson.
“It is not being sold as development land, but that’s not to say that the local authority could make a different decision in the future once it has been acquired by someone else. There are never any guarantees.”
Nearby residents and local councillors originally believed the land was owned by Huntingdonshire District Council (HDC) as the authority has been maintaining the area for several decades.
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Those living nearby were alerted to the sale when leaflets advising them about the auction were distributed to homes, and they still have concerns about the future of the land once it has been sold.
Robert Humphrey said: “Local residents are shaken at the thought of these lovely green spaces being lost to the community. Generations of school children have walked safely along the footpath to Crosshall School. The greens have been a safe haven for children to play and even for dog owners to stroll through.
“There is even a cherry tree that bears fruit as well as oaks and other mature trees. It would be a disgrace if it was allowed for any development to take place here and the local residents would do all possible to prevent any building on the green space area.”
St Neots mayor, Councillor Barry Chapman believes historically there was some confusion about who owned the land and is calling on HDC and is calling on HDC and Cambridgeshire County Council to acquire the land to prevent future development.
He said: “Whether the play areas, green open spaces, footpaths, landscaping and possibly some roads were transferred to council ownership, or if this was simply missed during the period of chaotic local government re-organisation is currently unclear.
“However, both the county council and HDC seem to have acted as the freehold owners and legal representatives of the 1,000, plus current homeowners and their predecessors. I believe both councils need to urgently acquire the freehold of the land which they have been maintaining and acting as freeholders of since 1972.”
A meeting of St Neots Town Council, held last week, included a large number of people who live close to the land and wanted to raise their concerns about possible development. The town council has sent a notice to the building company under section 274 of the Local Government Act 1972 to attempt to acquire the freehold. The council has not yet received a reply and will now need to proceed with a section 275 notice initiating the process of compulsory purchase. A Town Green Order is also in progress to permanently protect and preserve green open spaces. More than 130 witness evidence statements have been handed in to support the application.