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Tory MP abandons council land purchase after 'deal exposed'

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Tory MP abandons council land purchase after 'deal exposed'

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Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Central Government and also in Local Government

 Tory MP abandons council land purchase after 'deal exposed' Tory MP abandons council land purchase after 'deal exposed'

A Tory MP has abandoned an attempt to buy some land opposite his constituency home after the deal became public knowledge.

MP for Dover Charlie Elphicke approached the council about purchasing the 0.39-acre spot directly facing his seafront home in the St Margarets area. 

Dover District Council agreed to the sale and offered the land to Mr Elphicke for £1,000, Kent Online reported.

However, Labour councillor Gordon Cowan questioned the purchase after he was briefed about the deal by the council’s director for access and property, Roger Walton.

When cllr Cowan suggested that the MP was buying the land to extend his garden, Elphicke claimed that he planned to restore it into a picnic area for use by the community.

Since news of the deal became public, Mr Elphicke, who is the husband of Natalie Elphicke, co-founder and chairman of Million Homes, Million Lives, has abandoned his plans to buy the land.

Cllr Cowan has called the attempted purchase a “disgrace".

He said: “It has not been on the open market and he wants to come along and buy it for £1,000. It’s land that is adjacent to his own property with nice sea views.”

The councillor, who is the council’s shadow cabinet member for access and property, claims that Mr Elphicke only suggested that he intended to turn the land over to the community after he questioned the sale.

Cllr Cowan said: “Quite frankly, he has been found out and now all he wants to do is turn it around and say isn’t it terrible that Labour don’t see it as a community asset.

“I found him out and he is covering it up.

“If it goes on the open market at the going rate and he would like to contribute or give the funds to the parish council he could contribute to the community at the same time as being the local MP.

“If he is looking to do a community asset project then that would be brilliant but that has never come up until recently.”

In response, Mr Elphicke said: "This is about a neglected public picnic area in a SSSI with no development potential whatsoever.

"The council were keen for me to take it on and restore it at my own cost to open public access under an enduring covenant. The local community was consulted and agreed. We all wanted to see families enjoy a nice day out by the sea.

"In addition council officers consulted cllr Cowan at an early stage and told him about the open access covenant and restoration plan.

"Many people like me spend their time and money trying to do good for the community. It's such a shame when other people apply their own values and lack of generosity of spirit to the motives of those of us trying to do the right thing.

"I look forward to cllr Cowan putting forward his own proposals for the restoration of this picnic area."

A Dover District Council spokesman said: “The strip of land concerned is in a conservation area and an area of landscape significance, adjacent to a Site of Special Scientific Interest, so there was no possibility that it would be developed on. 

"There was always going to be a public use covenant on the land, and it was valued by a qualified chartered surveyor, in accordance with accepted valuation principles, having regards to the nature of the land, and the covenant.”

Pictured: The patch of land with Mr Elphicke's home, top left.

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