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War of words over Keighley Town Council allotment land
3:48pm Thursday 5th December 2013 in News
A bitter war of words has broken out amid allegations Keighley Town Council tried to sell some of its allotment land.
Chairman of the council’s allotments and landscapes committee, Councillor Brian Morris, said the 4.143-acre area at Hog Holes in Woodhouse was at one point advertised for sale, but claims this was done without council consent.
He alleges property agent, Grant Doyle, a previous tenant of the town council-run civic centre, was responsible for the unauthorised advertising.
However, Mr Doyle, formerly of the firm Property 28, which has been rebranded Keighley Property Group, described the allegation as “preposterous”.
He said he was told by Coun Morris to put the land on the market to see if it generated any interest. “I’m not going to be made a scapegoat because of the council’s failure to do due diligence,” he added.
Ingrow resident, Elizabeth Mitchell, of campaigning group Cavetown Council, said she saw the land advertised on the Right-move website as far back as April.
“I asked whether the land owned by Keighley Town Council at Hog Holes was for sale,” she said.
Despite it being on the website, however, she was told it wasn’t.
In a statement sent to council members, Coun Morris said: “During April, I approached estate agents Dacre Son & Hartley for a ball-park figure for the possible rent that could be achieved for the land at Hog Holes for grazing.
“The intention was that when provided with this, I could make a recommendation the town council could make a claim from Bradford Council for the back rent they’d received from 2002 when the town council came into existence.
“I then asked Grant Doyle, of Property 28, who was then a town council tenant, if he could give me a second professional opinion. He was given the same brief as Dacres.
“A few days later I asked him if he had the information. To my surprise, he informed me he’d advertised the land for sale with an online estate agent. I immediately told him to remove Hog Holes from the website, saying the land was not for sale.”
This week, Mr Doyle responded: “I’d given Brian Morris an estimated value for the land of £500,000 to £700,000 if it had planning permission on it.
“His exact words were ‘put it on the market and see what interest we get. If we get interest in it, then we can pursue it with Bradford Council and the Secretary of State’.
“In June, he came to me and told me to take the land off the market because ‘we’re getting heat for it’. So that’s what I did.”
The issue is expected to be discussed at tonight’s full council meeting.