Council Money well spent?
The New Century Park Access Road (CPAR), though what could now be more appropriately called New Century Park Car Parks Access Road, is something we have spoken of often, as it opens up Wigmore Valley Park (WVP) for airport expansion.
This fanciful project has been a bit quiet recently, but we thought we would share some information on the project from the agenda pack for the Luton Borough Council (LBC) Scrutiny Finance Review Group meeting held on the 23rd September. Here are extracts from that agenda:-
Preservation House: The leasehold acquisition of the property was approved by the Executive in August 2019, to secure the site for the proposed construction of Century Park Access Road (CPAR) Phase 1. The business case for CPAR is still in development. However, the Council was legally committed to acquire the site and it has been purchased for £3.2m. A cost of £1.140m is included in the Q1 monitoring for the initial capital financing charges, annual rental charge, business rates and security on the property. A tenant is being sought for the building on a short-term basis, to partly offset the costs being incurred. The acquisition of the freehold and financing options is being looked in to, linked to developments with the CPAR project.
Additional unbudgeted costs of £1.14m associated with the corporate purchase of Preservation House to facilitate the first stage of Century Park Access Road. The Council will need to pay annual rental costs of £513k, plus other operational costs including rates and security estimated at £147k, and the annual revenue cost to finance the leasehold acquisition is estimated at £480k
·Unachieved income on Century Park Access Road (CPAR) of £158k. CPAR is not progressing this year and therefore income included in the budget for fee income will not be achieved. Preservation House is a large industrial warehouse that sits on Airport Way, the old main access road to the airport. It will be the start point for CPAR on its route to WVP, and Terminal 2.
The first extract mentions the business case for CPAR to still be in development, but that’s not strictly true. There have been several put to this committee and the Executive, but they were all declined, as there is no business case apart from Terminal 2 and expansion. The reasoning behind LBC building the road was purely to take the huge costs (the last figure we saw was £140 Million several months ago) out of those airport expansion plans – a rather juicy carrot for the next concessionaire to take on that expansion. Indeed, we were informed it would now be part of the LLAL DCO application.
Summary of all the costs
|Leasehold of Preservation House||3.2|
|Annual rental Costs||0.513|
|Financing the Freehold Loan||0.480|
So, who are these Council Officers that keep saying that CPAR has a business case in its own right? Do they not have something more useful that they can spend their very well-remunerated time on, which will benefit Luton now? Why haven’t the Full Council said enough is enough, stop wasting money on this now?
Why was this unit acquired at a time when LBC has huge financial struggles in providing for the residents of Luton, having pleaded poverty to Central Government at every opportunity, based on a lack of income from the airport? The paragraph says, “legally committed to acquire the site”, why? What sort of legal obligation could that be, or is it that they wanted to get the site at this price, rather than be scalped by a new owner, should CPAR ever see a spade in the ground? If this is the case be honest LBC, tell it how it is: you thought spending money on it was more important than on residents’ services?
The third paragraph states that CPAR will not be progressing in 2021, so why was £3.2 million frittered away on it? If LBC has no money for services, where did £3.2 million come from, and where will the £1.14 million service costs per year be conjured up from?
These details are yet another reminder of how LBC sees airport expansion plans: nothing but nothing must stand in the way. Residents’ services in Luton are, and no doubt will be for years to come, pared to the bone so that the airport can expand, and poverty be obliterated in Luton by 2040.
Whilst huge sums like this are diverted from those who need it most and speculated on pipedreams, the sheer hypocrisy of that statement grows even more by the day.
Stop all spending on Luton Airport Expansion Now