Engine Lane

Work is now well under way to develop 171 houses on Engine Lane approved by North Somerset Council as part of planning application 17/P/1250/F. The timber framed houses are expected to be fully developed with 18 months, so by Christmas 2024.

A bit of history

In 2016 Nailsea Town Council (NTC) agreed to sell its asset to Barratts by the smallest majority possible. (This was the casting vote of the Chair at the 3rd attempt.) The need ‘for houses now’ was clearly expressed, and the expectation was that building would start in 2018.

This was delayed by the National Grid (NG) works across the site, such that the contract expired in July 2020, but was renewed until 31 July 2021. Had the building begun before then, the conditions of the contract would have held. If not, then the contract would have become null and void, and options for either side to withdraw, renegotiate or extend existed.  Further delays caused by COVID, Brexit and bad weather meant that NG got behind it’s revised schedule but the work is now complete, and the new Rugby replacement pitches in place.

If, however, the Council had waited until 2023, the 50% overage (a sum payable under covenant to the original vendors of the land)  due to the original vendors of 2008 on the sale of the land from the Town Council to Barratts, would have halved to 25%, thereby bringing a significant amount of additional revenue to the Council for the people of Nailsea.

Aside from N.A.G.’s objections to the land being developed at all, for all the reasons with which supporters will be familiar, N.A.G. does not want NTC, and the people of Nailsea, to lose out. They have done so as the opportunity to wait until January 2023 was not taken.  The details of the contract were subject to commercial confidentiality and not in the public domain.  It is reasonable, however, to assume that they were based on a 2016 valuation of the land made by the District Valuer. Since then land values have risen significantly, but the contract was not revised.

N.A.G. asked NTC to consider the gains it would make if a new contract based on current land values was drawn up, and, if possible, to delay this until January 2023 when the overage will fall.

NTC, correctly stated that it is was bound by the existing contract until 31 July 2021.  NTC also felt that to try to renegotiate would risk losing the whole contract and having to start all over again, or to find that the eventual sum achieved would be less than the current contract. N.A.G. considered this unlikely in the present climate, with the apparent eagerness of developers to acquire land on which it is easy to build. The land to the west of Engine Lane would have been even more attractive now than in 2015 because it had planning permission, the NG works were complete and many of the other issues in the original planning application had been resolved.

N.A.G. has not found NTC eager to engage or swift to respond to requests for information, and slow to clarify its position. This is a challenge to transparency and meaningful democratic debate and runs counter to the Council’s code of Conduct on openness which states: “members must be as open as possible about their actions and those of their council, and must be prepared to give reasons for those actions. Information should only be restricted when it is clearly in the wider public interest.”

The Council also has a duty to ensure that it obtains the best price in its financial dealings. Even ignoring the overage drop, by proceeding with a contract based on 2016 land values, the council will have lost a significant amount of money.

Last Updated: Oct 3, 2023 @ 5:34 pm