England

Devon and Cornwall councils make £50m from sell-offs

Plymouth Civic Centre
Image caption Plymouth City Council has sold the civic centre to developers Urban Splash

Cash-strapped local authorities in Devon and Cornwall have raised more than £50m over the past three years by selling off land and buildings.

In Cornwall, sales have generated £28m, in Devon the figure is £14.3m, Plymouth £4.7m and in Torbay £4.2m.

Sales include the civic centre in Plymouth, Oldway Mansion in Paignton, Exeter's old library, and the former Richard Lander School in Cornwall.

The figures were revealed in a Freedom of Information request by the BBC.

Image caption Exeter's old library is being converted into student flats

Christine Fraser, chair of St David's Neighbourhood Partnership in Exeter, is disappointed by the sale of the former Exeter City Library for student flats.

She said: "It's a fabulous building which could be put to better use and perhaps house some of the hundreds of people who are on the housing waiting list."

Devon County Council said: "We're selling property and land which is surplus to our operational requirements.

"As a result, we've been able to reduce our property maintenance budget by £1.4m since 2012/13."

Image copyright Google
Image caption Oldway Mansion in Torbay is to become a hotel

Torbay Mayor Gordon Oliver said: "In the last six months I have sold £1.6m of assets. I put them in the auction room and sell them.

"We have reduced our commitment to repairs and renewals by £20m from £40m in the last three and a half years because we have got rid of the buildings we don't need."

Liberal Democrat Devon councillor Alan Connett said: "If the council owns an old building it can be spending more than it's getting in rent so it might be better to sell the building.

"Most of us would say there is no point spending good money on maintaining buildings which aren't serving a purpose."

Liberal Democrat Cornwall councillor Jeremy Rowe said: "It's better for us to put those buildings back out into the community and into the economy of Cornwall.

"Otherwise they become dilapidated and we can use that money to reinvest so we are providing a better service overall."

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