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Wednesday, 01 October 2014

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Tory chief hits out at decision to sell Barrow school buildings

THE decision to sell former school buildings has been criticised by a senior politician.

The former Parkview School buildings were sold, on behalf of the landowner Cumbria County Council, to an unnamed buyer for £900,000 at auction last month. The future plans for the land remain unknown.

The buildings and 5.78-acre site off West Avenue, Barrow, have been vacant since last summer as Furness Academy opened its £22.5m new build in September. Permission has already been granted for the buildings to be demolished.

But during the annual meeting of Barrow Borough Council, Councillor Jack Richardson, leader of the opposition Conservative group, demanded to know why the borough council had decided not to take on the land when offered it as part of standard “surplus land” procedure.

Phil Huck, executive director, said: “We have a partnership working group with Cumbria County Council which meets regularly. There was a decision about surplus land at the beginning of December and I received an email on December 18 which asked us for confirmation as to whether or not we were interested.

“On the same day, the council had agreed its list of priorities and it was not in it. There was no capacity in the capital programme and it was for those reasons the decision was taken.” Asked after the meeting what he would rather have seen happen to the buildings, Cllr Richardson said: “Could they not have said ‘look, this is an iconic building which clearly we don’t want to see demolished, we want to see it retained’?

“Could it not have been used, as they do in Kendal, where they’ve got one building (Stricklandgate House) in the centre of town which is used as the centre for all voluntary organisations. That’s just one suggestion. It could well be that it could have been used for other community purposes, or to put all county council services under one roof.”

A county council spokesman said the £900,000 was a “very pleasing result and good news for Cumbria’s taxpayers”. He added: “At a time when the council is having to find unprecedented financial savings, we could not justify the costs of keeping hold of a large property we no longer need so took the decision to sell it at auction.

“Completing the sales means the council no longer has the costs of around £100,000 per year holding the property vacant. The money made will be added into the council’s capital budget stream and invested in projects in the county.”

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