Councillors call for council report into under-fire Harborough housing scheme to be published now

They are stepping up calls for the council to act after the Harborough Mail revealed last April the authority spent £920,000 of taxpayers’ cash on a bungalow valued at £303,000 to help drive through the initiative

By Red Williams
Friday, 11th February 2022, 5:44 pm
Updated Friday, 11th February 2022, 5:46 pm
The site of the proposed housing scheme.
The site of the proposed housing scheme.

Furious councillors are calling for an internal council report into an under-fire housing scheme in Market Harborough to be published now.

Liberal Democrat councillors are telling Conservative-ruled Harborough District Council to release the in-depth review of the controversial Naseby Square redevelopment urgently.

They are stepping up calls for the council to act after the Harborough Mail revealed last April the authority spent £920,000 of taxpayers’ cash on a bungalow valued at £303,000 to help drive through the initiative.

The site of the proposed housing scheme.

Cllr Phil Knowles, who leads the council’s Liberal Democrat group, and ward councillors Roger Dunton and Julie Simpson said they are “outraged” that the study into the town’s Southern Estate blueprint is still under wraps.

“This is shocking, incomprehensible and a slap in the face for local residents.

“It’s simply astounding and beyond belief that we still have not seen this absolutely critical report,” said Cllr Knowles.

Cllr Dunton said: “We have been calling for action on this for many months.

“Now there is still nothing on the table to discuss and promise after promise falls by the wayside.”

He was backed by fellow Welland and Liberal Democrat councillor Cllr Simpson.

“Local residents are totally frustrated and the whole thing is literally beyond belief.

“We were promised the report on June 21, October 21 and now on February 22 – but we’ve still got nothing,” said Cllr Simpson.

“Both members and residents need to see this report now - we have to see it warts and all.

“Only then can we make a constructive analysis of what went on here.”

Cllr Knowles added: “I’ve been told by senior council officers that the internal audit report is complete.

“But at this moment I’ve been refused access to the report until external counsel rule on what can or cannot be shared with councillors.

“I appreciate that some of the contents of the report might be confidential and I would respect that confidentiality,” said the Liberal Democrat chief.

“But it’s my firm belief that this vital information should be shared with all members now - in full and unredacted.

“This will allow us to finally have a constructive and meaningful debate - albeit that some of this may need to be in private.”

Liz Elliot, deputy chief executive at Harborough District Council, said: “The council intends to report on its property review at the next Audit & Standards Committee, subject to legal considerations.”

Last April Harborough council said it spent £920,000 to buy 87 Granville Street in 2019 as part of the contentious project to rework the traditional old people’s Naseby Square complex.

The authority said it would more than recover the huge sum of cash it paid out after selling its local land and sealing a deal with Platform Housing Group to build 38 homes at the site off Stuart Road.

A council spokesman told the Mail at the time: “We confirm that the council acquired 87 Granville Street in 2019 as part of a wider land assembly project to enable the provision of a wider development of affordable housing in Market Harborough with Platform Housing Group.

“This scheme was originally planned to deliver a mix of affordable and private housing.

“However, the scheme has now been developed to provide 23 affordable dwellings for social rent and 15 for shared ownership.

“There is also a Section 106 Agreement to provide further benefits for the town.”

The spokesman added: “The council has agreed to sell the site to Platform Housing Group to enable them to develop it as an all-affordable scheme.

“This is a sustainable housing site close to the town centre site for people who are in need of housing.

“Through the terms of this deal the council will receive a capital receipt which will cover more than the original sum paid for all the land acquisitions.

“Creating more affordable housing for residents in the Harborough district is a key priority in the council’s corporate plan.”