Scarborough Borough Council says it has ‘complyed with the law’ over decision to sell swimming pools

Scarborough councilors criticized the borough council cabinet’s decision to sell the town’s former indoor swimming pool to a developer over concerns about ‘due process’, although council officers argued no rule had been broken.

At a heated meeting of the authority’s Places and Futures Oversight and Review Committee, the cabinet of Scarborough Borough Council was criticized for its decision to sell the land on the north side of the town to a developer, HQ Hotels, whose boss is Scarborough businessman Nick Thomas, who had approached the council about buying the site.

However, the committee ultimately decided that “no further action should be taken” and that the sale could go ahead subject to North Yorkshire County Council approval.

Criticisms have been leveled by some councilors over concerns about due process, transparency and a perceived lack of public participation. Council officers strongly denied any allegations of impropriety or deviation from the regulations.

Speaking at the meeting, Scarborough Council Oversight Officer Lisa Dixon said:

“I can confirm that the board has adhered to the relevant statutory procedures and complied with the law of the land.

“We have taken external advice on what validates this point”

The sale of the former indoor swimming pool was approved at a July 26 cabinet meeting, with plans for a developer, HQ Hotels, to turn the site into a 15-star ‘four-star-plus’ hotel. million pounds.

This was planned to complement the council’s North Bay Master Plan to regenerate the area and attract tourists as well as investment in leisure activities.

However, the firm’s decision has been called for further scrutiny by four advisers after they raised ‘concerns that the property is being sold without being marketed adequately to raise the highest possible sum’.

The appeal was proposed by Cllr Heather Phillips and seconded by Cllrs Clive Pearson, Mike Cockerill and Phil Trumper, who also suggested that “due process was not followed”.

The wrap-up and review committee meeting was held on Wednesday, August 31, and the public was barred from the meeting twice due to the discussion of “confidential” matters relating to the financial and legal aspects of the sale.

It is not uncommon for committees to exclude the public when sensitive financial or legal issues are discussed.

As the second private session lasted until the end of the meeting, Scarborough Borough Council confirmed to the Local Democracy Reporting Service that the “initial cabinet decision has been upheld”, meaning the sale may have venue.

Speaking at the meeting, Cllr Heather Phillips, who proposed the appeal of the cabinet decision, said it was not done in an “adversarial” way, but “exploratory”.

Cllr Phillips added that she wanted to explore the necessary North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) approval as well as the “marketing” of the site as she said there had been interest in buying the site from other developers .

She also said she had been “reliably informed” that a Scarborough businessman would have been willing to pay “50% more” than the agreed price, although no figures were made public.

Council officials said they were in the process of seeking NYCC approval and added that public bidding for land disposition was not always “preferred”.

The council officer added that direct sale was also possible, albeit ‘slightly below market value’, as they relied on the return that would come from the investment and regeneration of the site by the chosen developer as part of the council’s North Bay plan.

After a brief private committee session from which the public was excluded due to the discussion of a “legal case” regarding the land sale issue, the meeting resumed in public.

Cllr Bill Chatt then asked if council leader Cllr Steve Siddons had a ‘legal right’ to be at the meeting and whether he was there to ‘intimidate’.

Cllr Chatt was informed that elected members are welcome at meetings of the ballot committee.

Cllr Bill Chatt also suggested the council failed to consult the public enough on the sale and development of the old pool, citing the case of a woman who contacted him with such concerns.

He said the woman lived near the site and did not want a hotel near her home.

However, council officer Marc Cole said the public was consulted as part of the overall consultation process for the North Bay master plan.

Clr Chatt replied

“I’m going to write the lady and say ‘Mr Cole says you’re a liar, there’s been consultation and you don’t know what you’re talking about. So there you go, in the nose!’

Cllr Eric Broadbent responded to Cllr Chatt’s comments saying:

“I completely understand that we get emails when people are unhappy with the decisions, but I was in the working group and I thought it was thorough, we covered every aspect.”

Accusations have also been leveled against the cabinet’s decision-making process by Cllr Mike Cockerill who suggested that the “requirements” of the local government legislation “were not met when preparing the cabinet report” for the July 26 meeting.

However, this was strongly refuted by council officers, with oversight officer Lisa Dixon ‘confirming’ that the council had complied with the relevant law and regulations.

She added:

“So, I’m sorry, Cllr Cockerill, but I have to dispute that point because the board followed the law.”

The meeting was quickly moved to a private session with the public excluded, as Cllr Cockerill proceeded to read through ‘confidential’ email correspondence between council CEO Mike Greene and what Cllr Cockerill suggested was another company who wanted to develop the site.

The meeting was not adjourned to open session before its conclusion, but Scarborough council said no further action would be taken by the committee and

“Consistent with the original decision, we will now liaise with the permanent authority (NYCC) to obtain their agreement for the decision as part of the local government reorganization process.”