Many thanks to David Bartlett, on behalf of the Ventnor Town Council (VTC), for his response below. If you read the council’s allegations, the VTC response makes for interesting reading. Ed
The IWC say: The Green (Salisbury Gardens) has never been considered to be part of this disposal.
The first time in all our discussions with IoWC we were told this was in an email from Deputy Director Economy & Environment on 5 February in response to a copy of the Newsletter we had sent him and other senior officers for information. His email stated: the Council has not said that it will also be disposing of the green.
An email of 6 February from the Mayor sought clarification about their future intentions and the reply of 11 February offered no reassurance, simply stating: it would be wrong to make an assumption that [the IoWC} would sell it until such time as it has given its consideration to such an action. To date the Council has only declared its intention to dispose of the building.
This is the language of the past. We would be delighted to be told that the IoWC will never sell the green and will enter into an in perpetuity commitment not to.
The formal list of assets for Disposal includes: formal Coastal Management Centre, Salisbury Gardens, Dudley Road and their Land Registry entry for the property includes both building and green.
Endorsement of commissioning manager
The IWC say: The commissioning manager for adult and community learning services has declined a request to formally endorse the bid. In the circumstances it is wrong to use his quote and the council’s logo under the headline ‘Strong Support’ The bid is not supported by the Isle of Wight Council.
The quotation from the Commissioning Manager for Adult & Community Learning is a precise quote from a long email of professional support for the Town Council’s project, similar to that provided by all the other Agencies. It was dated 20 August and never withdrawn. We have been clear that the bid is not supported by the IoWC’s political leadership since David Pugh’s email to the Mayor of 22 August which rejected all our proposal in favour of disposal on the open market.
The IWC say: Irrespective of who may have purchased the property historically, it legally passed to and is owned by Isle of Wight Council on behalf of all Island residents and all Island residents have contributed to its maintenance and upkeep. It is wrong to declare ‘It’s Ventnor’s!’ Similarly, it is also wrong to state as fact that any money raised would be spent ‘elsewhere’ of Ventnor. How and where any receipt may be spent is undecided.
The clue is in the exclamation mark! We do not doubt the IoWC’s legal title to the building; we entirely dispute their moral right to it and their political right to asset strip our town.
The IWC say: There is no intention, nor has there ever been, to sell Blackgang Chine car park to Southern Vectis or at less than market value.
This is simply a proofing error; the special purchaser recognised by the IoWC for Blackgang Chine is, of course, Vectis Holdings. It certainly doesn’t alter the fact of negotiations on a Special Purchase basis for the disposal of the car park and at least one other asset.
Full market value?
The IWC say: We have also made it clear any special purchase is based on full market value based on the reports of two independent valuations.
This is simply not true. The IoWC’s Property Capital Receipts Disposals Programme 2012-2015 refers to the possibility of sale at less than market value in three of its paragraphs: 8, 23 and 24. The document is available on the IoWC’s web site.
Paragraph 8, for example, refers to a special purchase where: albeit this might be at less than market value. Paragraph 23 is clear that Best consideration does not necessarily mean the highest price achievable but can also be a combination of price and community benefit.
Paragraph 24 makes the same point: Sale of property at less than best consideration is not proposed in relation to any of the asset… other than in cases where the council has agreed to a disposal with restricted use, and then the value will reflect the restrictions applied. The final decisions in relation to such properties will identify clearly the community benefit being achieved in the disposal.
Gifting of the property
The IWC say: Ventnor Town Council’s Business case appears to be predicated on the IW Council gifting them the building and without having agreed the bid with the IW Council before it was submitted. There is no such commitment or likelihood of gifting the property.
We have discussed a number of options for the transfer of the building with IoWC senior officers, including a long lease and purchase at market value less an amount reflect social value, in line with recent legislation.
It is IoWC that has single position based on a political decision; it is precisely that that Ventnor Town Council – and an increasing number of Ventnor residents – are challenging. Other choices are available to them, including the gifting of the building and its green. A legal opinion from Anthony Collins Solicitors to that effect is available from the Locality website.
The opinion is clear that all local authorities have the power to sell as less than market value given just two conditions:
- the purpose for which the land is to be transferred is likely to contribute to the “promotion or improvement” of the economic, social, or environmental well-being of the area; and
- the difference between the market value of the land and the actual price paid for the disposal (if any) is not more than £2,000,000.
Both of those apply to Salisbury Gardens: building and green.
VTC refute ‘political’ allegations
In conclusion, we refute the allegation that the Newsletter is ‘political’ in the sense that the Library policy would be expected to mean.
Party politics play no part in the work of Ventnor Town Council; that work is political only in terms of the definition that politics is the activities associated with the governance of a country or other area: that is our business, and includes the importance of challenging decisions of the principal authority when they are contrary to the interests of our town.