Ambitious plans to buy a sizeable chunk of a South Hams secondary school will not be funded by local taxpayers, a town council has pledged.
Totnes Town Council says it has no intention of raising the council tax precept if it is successful in its bid to buy some of the land King Edward VI Community College is hoping to sell for £7 million.
Instead, the council hopes to access grant funding or government loans to pay for a section of the Lower Field and the Elmhirst site, which it wishes to acquire in an effort to save both from developers’ clutches.
Town mayor, Cllr Ben Piper said: “Fortunately, through raising the precept some years ago now we have built capacity in the town hall so we are now able to consult with professional experts in the field and commission a viability study to look at ways that we can make this a scheme, which will not look to the ratepayer to cover it but rather ‘wash its own face’ through a sound approach to developing this asset for the town as a resource for generations to come.
“As a council we are able to borrow money from central government at a socially affordable rate; this means that we are able to consider an approach which certainly would not work for a developer who just has to maximise profit, so 30 or 40 per cent can be paid out in dividends.
“A figure has been mentioned but we will be working from a basis of a fully independent professional valuation in order to make sure it is a fair deal for everyone.”
The council has yet to reveal the sum involved in any purchase – although figures of £4 million have been bandied about – but says any loan repayments are likely to be covered by income raised from subsequent money-spinning ventures on the site.
By selling a surplus 12-acres of land – half of the school site – KEVICC’s hopes to have enough money to fund improvements to existing classrooms and sports facilities, and to build a new sixth form block.
The school is currently consulting about selling seven parcels of land to a housing developer but the concerned town council fears this will strip the community of a popular green asset and increase pollution on the A385.
At their July full council meeting, councillors agreed to try and gain an Asset of Community Value status for some of the land which would give it the option to buy and six months to raise the money.
It has earmarked £10,000 from its reserves to pay for a professional feasibility study, which will also ascertain a fair purchase price and investigate ways of funding any sale.
Town clerk, Catherine Marlton, said the council could take a loan through the Public Works Loan Board, adding: “Any loan payments could likely be covered by income generating potential on a site of that size.
“However the council is only investigating options at the moment. The town council has not agreed to purchase anything and therefore it would be very premature to comment on how it would be funded or what the detailed vision is.”