EXCLUSIVE: Council to refer itself to police over controversial land sale

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A Derbyshire council has dramatically agreed to refer itself to police over a controversial land sale.

During a heated meeting, councillors unanimously agreed a motion tabled by Conservative Cllr Barry Lewis calling for a police probe into North East Derbyshire District Council’s (NEDDC) sale of land at Mickley, near Alfreton.

Council documents show Labour-controlled NEDDC agreed to sell the land for a combined value of £80,000 in April 2005.

However, the initial purchaser re-sold the land as two separate sites in October and November 2007 for £655,000.

In his motion, Mickley Cllr Lewis claimed the sale had cost taxpayers a “significant sum” and raised concerns over “insufficiently explained irregularities” in two documents submitted to a tribunal which investigated the long-running issue.

Cllr Lewis said a police investigation was the “right way to go about things”.

He added: “We need to draw a line under this matter.”

Labour Cllr Kevin Gillot said: “I’m more than happy for the police to investigate the issue.

“But if they do and conclude there’s nothing wrong, I’ll be surprised if we hear from the opposition about this again.”

Some Labour councillors accused the opposition of raising the issue for political purposes ahead of May’s local elections.

But Conservative Cllr Stuart Ellis said: “There’s nothing political about this – it’s everything to do with accountability at the absolute least.”

After the meeting, a NEDDC spokesman said: “This issue has already been considered by the Audit and Governance Committee and a copy of this report was made available to the police and external auditors, with no resulting action.

“However, as some council members felt the matter required further investigation, the authority unanimously agreed to refer it to the police, in line with our policy of being open and transparent.

“We will, of course, co-operate fully with any investigation, should the police decide to pursue this matter.”

Councillors and campaigners – including Stonebroom resident Robert Sturmer – have long raised concerns about the sale, in particular the discrepancy between the original transaction and the re-sale price.

After the meeting, Mr Sturmer said he was “thrilled” the council had agreed to refer the matter to Derbyshire police.