Carmarthenshire Council Explains Decision to Sell Land in Llanelli to Lower Bidder Despite Higher Offers
CARMARTHENSHIRE Council has explained why it sold land in Llanelli to a retailer despite receiving considerably higher offers from another company.
The authority said the offers from the higher bidder – also a retailer – were “heavily caveated” in terms of planning and infrastructure costs, and that the net proceeds from a sale could have been the same or even lower.
Land Registry records show the council sold a plot at Parc Trostre, Llanelli, to a retailer on a long leasehold basis for £1.83 million. At the time the council’s cabinet made the decision, in 2018, representatives of another retailer raised an offer of £2.75 million to £3 million, according to emails seen by the Local Democracy Reporting Service.
The decision to sell the land was made behind closed doors, which is usual for commercial reasons, and appears to have been taken by cabinet in July 2018. Minutes of the meeting didn’t mention any figures or company names, saying only that cabinet – then called the executive board – considered a report regarding the disposal of land in south-east Llanelli and unanimously approved “option one”.
Three weeks later representatives from the higher-bidding retailer offered £3.15 million for the land, subject to planning consent. The council replied to the representatives saying it wasn’t entertaining any further offers as it was close to contracting with the original party.
There is no suggestion of any wrongdoing, but surveyor Will Lloyd Davies, who said he was representing the higher-bidding retailer at the time, said he was “gobsmacked” when he discovered the eventual sale price of £1.83 million, considering what he said was his party’s revised offer of £3.15 million.
Mr Lloyd Davies, director of surveyors Arbenigol Ltd, said that while he was “pleased to see the site developed and providing inward investment and employment”, he was surprised to find out from the Land Registry that the final transacted price was around 40 per cent below his party’s bid.
Mr Lloyd Davies said he was also disappointed that his recent Freedom of Information request for reports relating to the sale decision made by the executive board was turned down to the council. He asked the authority to review its refusal decision, and it replied saying that detailed information about bids and prices would prejudice ongoing and future land disposal negotiations, and that this outweighed the public interest argument for disclosing the information. This refusal was later upheld by the Information Commissioner’s Office.
Asked about its reasons for selling the land to the lower bidder, Carmarthenshire’s cabinet member for resources, Cllr Alun Lenny, who wasn’t an executive board member in 2018, said: “The offers submitted by Mr Lloyd Davies on behalf of his client were heavily caveated, in terms of planning and infrastructure costs, and the actual net proceeds from a sale to them were considered by the council to likely be at an equivalent level if not lower than the agreed sale price.”
He added: “In reaching a decision the council also considered the deliverability of the schemes.”
Spotted something? Got a story? Email News@News.Wales