Huge payout if council reneges on homes deal


Lewes District Council says a petition proposed by some members cannot be lodged as the information it contains is incorrect.

Cllr Ruth O’Keeffe and colleagues hoped to engage townspeople in a plea to the council to hold fire on housing schemes before people had been fully consulted.

But Cllr Sarah Osborne pointed out she would not sign as the way the petition is written is inaccurate. She said: “We now need to fight on a site by site basis through the consultation process. The consequences if we unpick this deal are horrific and all of us taxpayers would suffer.”

She explained she stood for leadership twice aiming to challenge the schemes.

In a letter to Cllr Osborne, LDC executive office manager Minna Robertson points out reneging on an existing commercial deal would involve a legal breach of contract incurring compensation of hundreds of thousands of pounds.

However many people sign the petition, her letter states: “It will be difficult for the council to properly afford it serious weight.”

She lists potential sites saying information set out is inaccurate and it would be unreasonable for councillors to endorse it.

She explains in detail why allegations that St Mary’s Social Centre, Western Road toilets and a household waste site would be lost are not true. Last September’s Cabinet report stated open space disposal must be advertised in advance.

She goes on: “The council is not proposing to dispose of any sites which have been registered as ‘assets of community value.’ Regarding homes, the letter states: “What the council cannot do without financial consequences is capriciously walk away from the commercial deal it has signed.

“All members were made aware of the initial list of sites in May 2012. If we renege on a signed commercial deal we can expect a breach of contract legal claim from Karis and Southern Housing Group which would incur damages.”

Cllr Ruth O’Keeffe responds in next week’s Sussex Express.

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