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100 acres of land secured for new town outside Truro

100 acres of land secured for new town outside Truro

Published by the Pirate FM News Team at 6:04am 31st March 2020.

By Richard Whitehouse, Local Democracy Reporter

Cornwall Council has finally secured 100 acres of land which will be used to develop a new town on the outskirts of Truro.

The council completed the deal, believed to be worth around £36 million, to acquire the land which will be used for part of the planned Langarth Garden Village near Threemilestone.

However, while the relevant council Cabinet member has welcomed the deal, opposition councillors have questioned the timing of the transaction at a time when the coronavirus has placed a question mark over the economy.

Bob Egerton, Cabinet member for economy and planning, confirmed that the deal was sealed on Friday after a lengthy negotiation.

He said:

“We are pleased to get it over the line. Of all the times to buy land this is the wrong time. We have agonised about this and had lots of debate in the last week but in the long term, we believe it was the right thing to do.

“If we pulled out at the last minute the whole thing could collapse and we might not have got to this stage again.

“We wanted to get it over the line although getting bulldozers on the ground and starting work will probably be delayed.

“But after all the times that I said that we were nearly there I am pleased to say that we have now done the deal.”

Cllr Egerton confirmed the deal was for 100 acres of land and, while he would not confirm the amount spent by the council, said it was “in the magnitude” of £36m.

He stressed again that the land would help unlock a project that would be developed over many years.

“It is a long-term project, he said. “It will be at least 20 years until it is complete. Unless the whole of civilisation has collapsed in the next year it is the right thing to do in the long term.”

Cornwall Council has drawn up a masterplan for the garden village which includes the provision of up to 4,000 homes, shops, community facilities, schools, care homes and open space.

The Government has provided £47m for the Northern Access Road which will run through the development from the A390 to the Royal Cornwall Hospital.

And the area also includes the site for the proposed Stadium for Cornwall which will provide a new home for the Cornish Pirates rugby team and Truro City Football Club.

Langarth Village
Langarth Village

Cllr Egerton said the land deal “potentially unlocks the stadium” but negotiations needed to be carried out with the stadium partners to agree to the transfer of the land for the stadium.

He also said the Government needed to confirm that it would provide £3m in funding for the project which would also unlock a £3m pledge from Cornwall Council.

However, he acknowledged that, with the current coronavirus crisis, it was unlikely that the stadium would be a priority for the Government at this time.

Despite the welcome for the deal being done, Conservative councillor David Harris said he was posing a number of questions to Cllr Egerton about the timing of the purchase.

Langarth Village
Langarth Village

The Truro councillor said he had asked Cllr Egerton recently whether the council would be putting negotiations on hold due to Covid-19 and said he was surprised when told on Friday that the deal had been done.

He said that by completing the deal the council was not only buying the land but also making a commitment to the development of Langarth Garden Village.

Cllr Harris said:

“We are today in unprecedented economic waters. We have a Chancellor who has risen to the incredible challenge (of coronavirus) to make sure that people have money today.

“What he has done is the last thing that you would expect from a Conservative Chancellor.

“Where that leaves the economy in the long term nobody knows. Yet here we are spending £36 million. We have no idea where we will be in six months’ time. To make a long-term commitment like this seems incredibly naiive.”

Cllr Harris said he had no idea how the council was financing the purchase but expected it would be borrowing the money and that under the current interest rates of the Public Works Loan Board – which lends money to councils – it would cost £1m a year in interest.

“Given where we are to lock ourselves to this doesn’t make sense,” he said. “I find it impossible to believe that this deal would not still be there in six months’ time.”

Cllr Harris said that while he was asking questions about the land purchase he was “fully aware that there are much more important things” happening at this time with coronavirus.

He said that council leader Julian German and council officers “are doing their best in the most incredibly awful position”.

But he felt that a transaction of this size should have been dealt with more carefully.

Langarth Village
Langarth Village

Dulcie Tudor, Cornwall councillor for Threemilestone and Gloweth, said that while she welcomed the completion of the deal she wanted the council to look at why it took so long and cost so much.

Cllr Egerton previously told a meeting of full council that he was “embarrassed” by how much the council had spent on securing the deal.

Cllr Tudor said:

“The fact a deal has been done is good news, if it now unlocks the parcels of land across Langarth for the right, better, development of a garden village and infrastructure. The type of development our portfolio holder for planning, Cllr Bob Egerton, has been talking to us about for a long time now.

“But there needs to be a review to get a better understanding of why the process has taken so long and cost so much. We need to learn lessons so that this does not happen again.

“My question is how much has already been spent on lawyers, consultants and officers’ time getting the land transfer deal over the line to facilitate the stadium? Cllr Egerton has already told us he is embarrassed at the cost. It’s hundreds of thousands of pounds for sure. That’s taxpayers’ money that should be subtracted from our £3m commitment.

“The land transfer is the easy bit. There’s a long road ahead. It’s imperative the private sector and the public sector work together now and deliver a scheme the community can live with. The community who already live here (Threemilestone and Gloweth) and the community who will be living at Langarth.”

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