BBC defends 'irresponsible' sale of Caversham Park

Image caption The organisation put the Caversham Park estate up for sale on Tuesday

The BBC has defended the decision to sell its Caversham Park estate after a local councillor called it "irresponsible".

The organisation put the Grade II-listed property and gardens up for sale on Tuesday to save on property costs.

Tony Page, deputy leader of Reading council, said without prior planning permission the BBC does not know the site's full value.

The BBC said it would ensure the "maximum property value".

The 93-acre site, the base for BBC Monitoring and BBC Radio Berkshire, was put up for sale after a number of staff cuts in recent years.

The BBC said it was selling the Victorian stately home because it was "large and ageing" and "not fit for purpose".

It is being marketed for commercial or residential use, with no price quoted for the site, and no outline of planning permission for additional properties.

Mr Page said of the sale: "It is unacceptable from a public interest point of view, as a licence fee payer and a taxpayer.

"If you look at other sales of this type, they have planning permission, so you know what the land is worth."

He told BBC Radio Berkshire: "They are attempting an approach that won't maximise the value of the site."

Image caption The site played host to Antiques Roadshow in June 2016

The BBC said that putting the site on the market without planning for any buildings, like homes or flats, will enable it to get the highest price for the site.

A spokesperson said the corporation was "seeking offers for Caversham Park which are either conditional or unconditional on the buyer being granted planning consent before purchase".

They added: "This will allow the BBC to get the maximum property value on behalf of the licence fee payer."

Both BBC Monitoring and BBC Radio Berkshire will relocate to new sites in the coming months.

Monitoring is moving to London and will be closer to other BBC language services, while BBC Radio Berkshire will stay in the county, with new premises in the Reading area.

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