Barnet’s Labour councillors have made a formal complaint to the council’s Chief Executive that key information relating to the purchase of Abbots Depot on Oakleigh Road South, Brunswick Park for the relocation of the council’s waste depot was not provided to councillors taking decisions on the matter at committee, and that on certain issues committee members were given inaccurate information including the most recent purchase price of the land and who the land was occupied by.
Residents and Labour councillors have uncovered three key pieces of information that were either not provided to committee members or where councillors were provided with inaccurate information. This information was also not reported to Full Council on the two occasions when the issue was voted on there:
1. In November 2014 councillors were told that the Abbots Depot site had been vacant since they [Abbots Depot] stopped operating.
But in May 2015 Labour councillors discovered that Winters were using part of the Abbots Depot site on an informal basis.
2. In November 2014 councillors were told that the purchase price for Abbots Depot 7/8 years ago was £8m – a figure that was being checked with the Land Registry.
In May 2015 Labour councillors discovered that the Abbots Depot site had been purchased in June 2014 by Cergold (part of the Comer Group who are the council’s landlord at North London Business Park) for £750,000.
On the basis of the information provided to members of the Assets, Regeneration & Growth Committee (ARG) in November 2014 ie that the site was vacant and the value of the land was around £8m 7/8 years ago, the Committee agreed to purchase the land for £13.5m.
3. In March 2015 the ARG committee were asked to approve a payment of a premium to buy out a Waste Operation Lease for use of the main Winters site on the basis that this would facilitate the early departure of Winters from that site to give the council more room for their waste depot operation and to reduce traffic nuisance in the area.
In May 2015 Labour councillors discovered that the vacation and clearance of the Abbots Depot site partly occupied by Winters was covered as part of the acquisition of the main Winters Site.
The ARG Committee in November did not know an extra premium might be needed to secure complete access to the Abbots Depot site that they were agreeing the Council should purchase for £13.5m.
4. These three key items of information were uncovered in correspondence between Cllr Geof Cooke and officers on 19 May 2015 after Cllr Cooke challenged the accuracy of information provided earlier that day that ‘To the best of our knowledge, there have been no changes to the freehold or leasehold positions since 1/1/14’.
Local residents and Labour councillors have been campaigning to stop the relocation of the council’s waste depot to the Abbots Depot site which is in a high density residential area and where there is already up to 250 vehicle movements a day from the Abbots Depot site.
Labour member of the ARG Committee, Cllr Geof Cooke said: “This information should have been provided to councillors before they were asked to vote on the purchase of Abbots Depot – at both committee stage and when it came up at Full Council on two occasions - and on that basis I have submitted a complaint to the Chief Executive and asked for a formal investigation.
“I would like to thank residents for their hard work in uncovering some of this information and bringing it to our attention so we could challenge the information we have been provided with by the council.”
The planning application for the waste depot at the Abbots Depot site will be decided at a special meeting of the Planning Committee which has been scheduled for Tuesday 29 September – during the week of Labour Party Conference.
1. For more coverage of the Abbots Depot issue see:
For further details please contact:
Cllr Geof Cooke: firstname.lastname@example.org
Cllr Pauline Coakleywebb, Labour Spokesperson on Assets, Regeneration & Growth: email@example.com
To contact the Barnet Labour Group: 020 8359 2568