Council to consider paying £260,000 compensation over homes row

The Nestwood Homes site in 2007, which shows the different level of the new homes compared to existing properties.
The Nestwood Homes site in 2007, which shows the different level of the new homes compared to existing properties.
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A damning report into council maladministration over a controversial housing development and a recommendation for £260,000 in compensation will be discussed on Monday.

A special meeting has been called for councillors to discuss the Local Government Ombudsman’s findings about South Holland District Council’s actions in their dealings with the Nestwood Homes development in Old Main Road, Fleet Hargate.

The Ombudsman, Anne Seex, has recommended the council pays the firm more than £260,000 in compensation over the troubles, which date back to October 2005. However, the authority’s own legal team has disputed a number of the issues raised in the report.

The authority also claims it has made it clear from the outset of the complaint that it believes the matter should not have been dealt with by the Local Government Ombudsman.

In the report drawn up for the special meeting, council officers have warned that even if councillors accept the report’s findings and pay compensation, it is not a guarantee that further legal action by Nestwood Homes will not follow.

It continues: “Concerns remain that the report as a whole remains seriously flawed in its approach, in particular the council remains of the opinion that the Ombudsman has departed from her own guidance in considering the report at all.”

Council officers say they have “grave concerns” about the manner and processes in conducting the report, the time it took and how her version of events is not agreed by the council.

In her report, the Ombudsman claims she found maladministration in “poorly structured” officer reports, which meant a “significant proportion” of the planning committee did not have an adequate understanding of relevant issues when making decisions.

She said an officer report to a meeting in March 2007 did not reflect the officer’s professional views and a number of committee members had pre-determined their view about enforcement action.

The compensation bid – which has been reduced from £1.2million suggested in January – includes:

• £153,613 for costs and charges incurred in relation to loans taken out in consequence of the maladministration

• £44,153 for maintaining the properties while empty

• £4,297 for professional fees incurred from abortive sales

• £5,989 in legal costs, plus interest

• £25,000 for loss of opportunity to achieve higher sales proceeds than those eventually obtained

• £25,000 to the director of Nestwood for stress, strain and damage to reputation caused by the council’s maladministration

South Holland District Council is not legally required to accept the report.