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‘Conflict of interest’ row brews over Tatton Park plans
CHESHIRE East Council has so far spent more than £78,000 of a £240,000 budget which has been set aside to cover the cost of supporting a planning application to build a new adventure playground in Tatton Park.
The figures for the BeWILDerwood project – to be built by Bure Valley Ltd – were released to a Save Tatton Action Group (STAG) member under the Freedom of Information Act.
The council said it needed to pay for surveys and appraisals to show the viability of such a development as part of the wider Tatton Vision and also in relation to its need to provide information to the National Trust as land owner in respect to any potential development of the site.
Cheshire East has paid £78,792 for ecology and conservation work and surveys, a topographical survey of the whole site, tree surveys and tree mapping, archaeology survey, an historic landscape impact survey and traffic assessment, noise and pollution surveys.
STAG told the Guardian they believed these figures showed a ‘blatant conflict of interest’.
“Cheshire East can’t spend money on a planning application and determine it,” said STAG spokesman Heather Clawson.
“It’s a blatant conflict of interest which should have been addressed when Cheshire East first started talking to the developer two years ago.”
The project will cost £6.5 million, and the Freedom of Information response went on to reveal Cheshire East would be funding approximately £1.5 million of infrastructure works should the application be approved – and would be repaid with interest over the period of an ‘internal loan’.
“We want to know where the other £5 million is coming from,” Heather added.
“If Bure Valley is funding this from outside investors, then why can’t they fund all of the development costs?
“If Cheshire East is borrowing that money on their behalf, then council tax and business ratepayers should be told the truth.”
Cheshire East said that should the BeWILDerwood planning application be refused and not go to appeal, the additional costs of any additional legal and administrative fees and some further ecological survey work which are still to be paid, will be on top of the £78,792 already spent.
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