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Council owed £4 million by its own housing company

Thursday, 25 April 2024 06:54

By Bradley Gerrard, local democracy reporter

Mary Arches Street car park is to be sold, but not for student housing (Image: Google Maps)

But it won't sell Mary Archers for student flats

The leader of Exeter City Council has hit back at claims that winding down the council-owned development company Exeter City Living has lacked transparency and openness.

The business was set up by the city council to create affordable housing, but a decision was taken last year to wind it down, following huge losses. Exeter City Living (ECL) owed the local authority more than £10 million, and was one of a number of council-owned housing companies across Devon to hit trouble.

All but a handful of its assets were to be sold, but that could still leave the city millions of pounds out of pocket.

At a recent meeting of the full city council, a member of the public said the process had not been transparent.

Council leader Phil Bialyk (Labour, Exwick) said the process of scaling back the company had been completed last month. The company had paid £1.4 million towards its loans, and had transferred assets worth £4.3 million to the council, including buildings and land at Clifton Hill.

Those payments now mean a total of £3.95 million is outstanding, said Cllr Bialyk. More money willl come when Mary Arches car park is sold.

The city centre parking facility has been marketed as a development site since the council agreed in December that it should be sold.

The dilapidated car park had been due to close a year ago to be replaced with 100 new homes, but those plans were sidelined when ECL collapsed.

Both Clifton Hill and Mary Arches could have been more lucrative for the council, if it had sold them for purpose-built student accommodation, but it decided not to favour new homes for local people.

Answering a question about the perceived lack of transparency, Cllr Bialyk replied: “I disagree. Everything has been transparent in this.”

 

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