Winchester tax-payers could foot bill after city council mistake

Winchester tax-payers could foot bill after city council mistake

Winchester tax-payers could foot bill after city council mistake

First published in Winchester

TAX-PAYERS could end up footing a significant legal bill after Winchester City Council mistakenly registered part of Mid-Hampshire Railway Ltd as “an asset of community value”.

Under recent legislation, pubs, play areas and other important facilities can be legally ring-fenced to prevent a quick sale, without those living nearby having an option to buy them.

A nomination by New Alresford Town Council to make the Watercress Line’s Station Road car park a community asset was approved by the city council and added it to its web list last December.

But when the city council realised the application mistakenly included land it owned itself, Corporate Director Steve Tilbury last week moved to declare the listing “null and void”.

“They (the town council) caused us to believe land would be included that it became apparent they didn’t mean to include,” he told a listing review at the Guildhall.

Scott Stemp, representing the Watercress Line, said the railway’s owners had been surprised by the nomination of their Alresford car park, not least because the name and address of the nominee had been scored out with black ink.

Seeking to have the application knocked out for the next five years, he said Mid-Hampshire Railway would be forced to seek compensation from the city council for the legal fees they had run up fighting the now-defunct listing.

Richard Sturt, also representing Mid-Hampshire Railway Ltd said: “My client is a charity, they don’t wish to be in this position. But they have been forced to engage lawyers to defend this.”

Mr Tilbury will now publish his review findings within eight weeks.

City council property and licensing solicitor Cindy Tetstall said the blackening out of the name of the nominee on the forms sent to the Watercress Line should not have happened.

A spokeswoman for New Alresford Town Council was not available to comment at the time of going to press.

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