Council slammed over plans to sell five acres of land worth £1 million to developers – for just £1

A local council has been slammed over plans to sell five acres of green land worth £1 million to property developers – for just £1.

The land in Essex was bought two years ago by the local authority for just over £1 million with plans to build a luxury ‘TOWIE-style’ hotel.

But the developers lined up says it will pay just £1 for the greenbelt land, and they will also need the council to hand over another £500,000 to help with road-building costs.

Furious councillors say the plans to hand it over to bidder Bran Investments for just 0.0001 per cent of what they paid in 2017 makes them “look ridiculous”.

The plans are on the agenda to be discussed at a meeting tomorrow (THURS).

Council officers are expected to ask a committee permission to sell off the land so a four-star 100-room hotel can be built.

A document, set to be debated by councillors behind closed doors, suggests six developers had put offers on the land but civil servants had selected Bran Investments as their ’preferred bidder’.

A disgruntled Tory councillor, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “It makes us look ridiculous.

“We are raising Council Tax but then, on the other hand, we are just giving away assets for peanuts.”

Independent ward councillor Kerry Smith said what the council was considering amounted to giving “a million-and-a-half-pound gift” to the developer.

And Labour councillor Gavin Callaghan said: “There’s more questions than answers so far in this.

“Tax-payers ought to know why they have paid over a million pounds plus interest for an asset that’s now being sold to an investment company that has less than three years in trading, no members of staff and no history of building hotels of the size and scale of the one we were promised.”

He added the council were “sold a dream” of a luxury wedding venue that would attract fans of the glamorous lifestyle reflected in reality TV series The Only Way Is Essex.

The council report states that Bran “has in principle secured a four-star brand” to run the facility.

But it adds that a study by Bran found that although there was enough demand for hotel rooms in the area, “the anticipated room rates were below what had been previously estimated”.

The report states: “As a result, Bran Investments have had to vary their initial offer, as the expected return from the development is not sufficient to cover the high build costs associated with a four-star hotel complex.”

Bran was incorporated in July 2016 under the name Green Leaf Care Homes Limited, but changed its name to Bran Investments Limited in February 2017.

Its address is registered with Companies House as Hallmark Care Homes, Radford Way, Billericay.

Bran Investments has been contacted for comment.

The Policy Oversight and Strategy Committee is due to meet tomorrow.

By Adela Whittingham and Charles Thomson

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