Investigation into 'serious failings' over sale of recreation land in Shrewsbury
An investigation has been launched into “serious governance failings” over the sale of recreation land to property developers.
The independent investigation into the sale of part of Greenfields Recreation Ground in Shrewsbury has commenced after a motion was unanimously agreed by Shrewsbury Town Council in May.
It comes after a judicial review concluded in December that Shropshire Council failed to investigate whether the site that was sold off formed part of the recreation ground when it granted planning permission for 15 homes to be built on it in August 2018.
The land was sold to CSE Development in 2017, and the sale and subsequent planning approval sparked outcry among Greenfields residents, 300 of whom joined together to launch a campaign group to fight off the scheme.
A Shrewsbury Town Council spokeswoman said: “We have a responsibility to make sure that lessons are identified and actions are taken as a consequence.”
The investigation is being undertaken by Michael Redfern QC. Shrewsbury Town Council has said he has been given a comprehensive brief and his investigations would include discussions with councillors, officers, members of the Greenfields community.
Mr Redfern will report back on his findings at a publicly accessible meeting of the Town Council in the autumn.
The judicial report said: “Whilst Shrewsbury Town Council (STC) was not the defendant in this ruling, serious governance failings within STC have been identified as a result of it as the council failed to establish the legal status of the land prior to selling it and, in our view, it is a matter that should be drawn to the attention of the public.
“It is our view that STC must put robust procedures in place to ensure that an oversight such as this is not permitted to recur.
“Where there should be any future sale of land STC must be able to demonstrate that is has taken sufficient steps to establish the legal status of that land and act in accordance with all relevant legislation prior to sale STC should consider whether it has the legal power to proceed with any future disposals and, for the sake of good governance, should formally document the powers on which it has relied when making any such decisions.”
The recreation ground was purchased in two parts by the Council of the Borough of Shrewsbury for £1,000 in 1926 and held in trust for community use. It was transferred to the town council as part of a local government reorganisation in 2010.
Part of the ground was turned into allotments during the Second World War, and the site later became a tree nursery.
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