Fletton Field came to the market for sale in January on the instructions of NCC. This rarely available parcel of land near the centre of town comprises 1.7 acres off Glapthorn Road, between the memorial Chapel and Abbott House. Originally the land was bequeathed to the town by the Smiths and subsequently used for allotments. Since then it has been used by the community for many things, and until recently it also served as the playing field for the Primary School. The use by the Primary School ceased when it relocated from Milton Road to Cotterstock Road as part of a merger with the Middle School.
NCC Councillor Heather Smith said: “The NCC estates team has assessed it with a value of £2m, and the council has to accept the highest bid.”
Without planning consent for the land, property experts are sceptical about the valuation.
Richard Tremellen, Estates Bursar at Oundle School said: “In its current state as a playing field or paddock it is possibly worth about £100,000+. However, if the site was sold with planning consent to build on it, the value may be in excess of £1.5m.
“NCC are keen to sell it for as much as they possibly can, so would like to receive bids from developers. As it stands, any developer would be purchasing the land at risk. Their offers would also be conditional on gaining planning consent and there are no guarantees about gaining planning consent.”
In 2016, a planning application for up to 13 dwellings on the land was refused by East Northamptonshire planners.
Fletton Field is designated as Green Space on the Rural North Oundle and Thrapston Plan, and is also designated as Green Space in the emerging Neighbourhood Plan.
Theoretically, this is land that should not be used for development.
However, Heather Smith said they would look for a developer with plans to build extra care homes for the elderly. At the Oundle Town Meeting in April, Councillor Philip Stearn, Chairman of the Planning Committee, indicated that the ENC planning authority would favourably consider a planning application for extra care homes, overriding the local structure and neighbourhood plans.
Cllr Stearn’s approval of extra care homes signals a green light for potential developers, and gives more weight to the NCC’s steep valuation. However, it remains unclear how this scheme would better satisfy the reasons for the previous refusal of the 13 dwellings on this green field site.
Initially, NCC had hoped to receive bids on 2 March with a view to complete the sale by 31 March.
But because East Northants Council (ENC) had recognised the land as an asset of community value, there was a requirement to give a six week notification period for local interest groups to submit expressions of interest to purchase the land.
This then triggered a moratorium which allows six months for local interest groups to organise the funding.
Local groups in Oundle have until August to submit a bid to purchase the land as an asset of community value. A local authority can sell a property below market value if the sale will promote the social or environmental well-being of the area. However, if the property is valued above £2m, the council must consider the highest bid.
According to the NCC estates team, the field is worth £2m, which could put it out of reach of any consideration as an asset of community value.