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Concern as Tarn Moor estate sell-off is approved
Town councillors have reluctantly given the go-ahead to the selling of land for a planned housing development.
Trustees of the Tarn Moor estate are considering selling the land off Raikes Road, Skipton, for the building of 55 homes.
But in order for the sale to proceed, the managing trustees needed the approval of the custodial trustees – Skipton Town Council.
At a special meeting of the town council, residents urged councillors not to sign an option agreement relating to the proposed development.
But councillors were told they had no option but to sign, and any delay could result in action being taken against the council and its possible ultimate removal as custodial trustee.
The residents close to the proposed development – due to be decided by Craven District Council next Friday, September 27 – wanted a delay until the outcome of their community bid application for the land to be recognised as an asset of community value was known.
Jo Tamsons, spokesman for objectors, said there were concerns about the option agreement, about the trust and its relationship with the town council. She added there was also concern that the land could be sold on and could become another “Burnside situation”.
Mayor Coun John Kerwin-Davey also raised concerns and urged his fellow councillors not to sign the document, which he suggested was not lawful.
“Members have not had the benefit of legal or accountancy advice about this document, and to sign it would be reckless and could lead to councillors being personally liable,” he said.
But chief officer Dave Parker pointed out that legal advice had been sought and discussed fully at two other sub-committees and it was clear that the management trustees were acting lawfully.
Coun Wendy Clark said: “We are in a very unfortunate situation where we must comply with a lawful request. Our hands are tied, most councillors are opposed to what the managing trustees want to do, but we have no choice.”
Coun Paul Whitaker, the council’s managing trustee representative, declared a pecuniary interest and took no part in the debate or vote. The other representative, Coun Robert Heseltine, declared a personal (non-financial) interest and did not vote.
After the meeting, Mr Parker said: “The Charities Act makes it very clear that the council must carry out any lawful requests received from the managing trustees – and if it fails to do so it could be subject to a legal challenge with the possibility of a financial claim being made against the council for failure to carry out its duties. We took independent legal advice which confirmed this position.”
He added: “That said, many council members have ongoing concerns relating to the Tarn Moor Estate, and the council’s audit and scrutiny committee has agreed to undertake a full review of the council’s relationship with the charity. This review should start in the next couple of weeks.”
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