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Oval Chalet site-Whitstable; James Flanagan's letter to the press

October 29, 2015 12:05 PM

Sir,

C&C logoThe ongoing debate concerning the Oval Chalet site in Whitstable raises several questions.

One of these is why the previous administration (the Executive) decided, in October 2014, to continue negotiations with one developer for the site, even though the recommendation by council officers was for a tender to achieve a 'clean sale and early capital receipt'. Perhaps previous Executive members, or the five remaining councillors who served on that body, can explain why this decision was made?

Furthermore, why was the contract allowed to proceed with so few conditions on the amount of open space to be retained at the site? When this decision came before the Overview Committee, of which I was a member, the understanding was that the majority of the site would be for open space. Indeed, the Council had just gone through four years of trying to sell open space at Kingsmead Field in Canterbury, to finally back down following public pressure. Open space was clearly on the minds of the last administration - why was it overlooked on the Oval Chalet?

It is a shame that councillors at last week's meeting voted against Councillor Nick Eden-Green's motion calling for the Oval Chalet contract to be reviewed by Full Council and whether Best Value has been achieved. Indeed, some estimates put the value of the land, under the current plan for more housing and less open space, well in excess of that achieved by the Council.

What is clear is that all sides in the debate are saying the Oval Chalet contract was, and is, a bad deal. The Council must now review its procedures on how contracts are taken forward and how conditions are included before sales are made in the future. This surely has to be carried out sooner rather than later if the Council is to retain both the trust, and reputation, of local taxpayers.

James Flanagan

Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Spokesman, Canterbury and Whitstable