Oatlands £1 property deal has turned into 'nightmare'

COUNCIL chiefs handed over an entire housing estate in Glasgow to a private developer without checking how much it was worth.

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Sales of homes on the revamped Oatlands scheme have slowed during the current recession
Sales of homes on the revamped Oatlands scheme have slowed during the current recession

Bosses at Glasgow City Council have confirmed they did not value the neighbourhood of Oatlands and parts of nearby Richmond Park before giving it to a private housebuilder for a now nearly-stalled regeneration scheme.

Now city MSP James Dornan – originally from the South Side area – has accused Glasgow City Council of botching the development, which was supposed to have seen £190million worth of work done by today.

Insiders admit that the development could now take years to complete.

The SNP MSP for Cathcart said: "As someone with very close connections to Oatlands – I was born there and both my parents came from there – I looked forward to a new beginning for an area that had been allowed to die a slow and painful death.

"Unfortunately it appears that due to the incompetency of Glasgow City Council this dream is rapidly becoming a nightmare for residents.

"I'm at a loss as to how the council could sign off on a contract without doing a full valuation of the land and considering what sort of deal they would get if, as proved the case, the economy slowed down and the development became less attractive.

"How were they to know if council taxpayers were getting a good deal without this valuation?

"This appears like another case of the council taking their eye off the ball."

Glasgow handed over Oatlands and a chunk of nearby Richmond Park to private housebuilder Bett in 2005 for a peppercorn, or symbolic, rent of £1 a year under a development deal, details of which they have refused to disclose.

The local authority, in response to a Freedom of Information inquiry, said: "There has been no council valuation of the land at Oatlands during or since 2004, nor any independent valuation known to the council."

The Evening Times today asked the council if it regretted this.

A spokesman said: " No – this scheme has continued to develop despite extremely difficult conditions in the housing and construction sectors, bringing a new neighbourhood and community facilities to Glasgow."

Bett sealed the deal at the expense of a rival consortium.

Their proposal, the Evening Times understands, was a 50/50 partnership profit sharing agreement.

The council and firm agreed a nine-stage development for the neighbourhood scheduled for completion in 2012/13, the current financial year.

So far the developer is coming to the end of only the second of those stages.

A spokesman for the council said: "There are 213 socially rented homes now built, with 255 private homes either built or under construction. This leaves 858 private homes still to be built."

Both Bett and the council blame delays on the credit crunch.

The spokesman added: "Clearly the housing and property market has changed significantly since this project began, so it is difficult to say when it is likely to be complete.

"However, it seems reasonable to assume that the housing market will improve significantly – compared to the conditions of the past five years – in the medium-term, so this should mean higher demand for these homes in the years to come and an acceleration of the progress made during the current economic downturn."

The Oatlands development was estimated to be valued at around £190m in September 2005 when leases where signed for the area.

Bett as part of its deal with the council was supposed to carry out a whole series of "public works" as its construction progressed.

These included diverting Rutherglen Road, which has been done.

 

The Evening Times three years ago revealed that Glasgow City Council had picked up the bill for this – £3m – as Bett could not do so.

The council now declines to comment on this transaction. "Information on the Rutherglen Road diversion is commercially confidential between the parties," said the spokesman.

Other public work has been completed, including the laying out and planting of Oatlands Square, landscaping the entrance to Dixon's Blazes Industrial Estate, riverside pathways and relocating allotments. Other public works, including improvements to Richmond Park, will take place when Bett speeds up the project.

The Evening Times understands sales of the homes ran at three a month in 2011 and were planned to be about the same last year, a time in which sales had "picked up", according to the council.

There is no suggestion that Bett has done anything wrong or breached the terms of its deal with the council.

Bett had no comment.

david.leask@eveningtimes.co.uk

 

 

Editor’s note: Since publication, the Council  has confirmed that there was indeed no land valuation before sale, but council officers had made their own estimate of “future income versus value of planning gains” in 2001, which they say helped them to consider whether they were receiving value for public money from the eventual disposal some years later.

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