School land sales make Walsall Council £4 million

Cash-strapped Walsall Council has made almost £7m from selling off council-owned land over the last five years – with old school sites proving to be the most lucrative

CREDIT: This story was first seen in the Express & Star

The authority has sold off 41 plots since January 2013, raking in £6,983,937 with nearly £4m of that coming from former school land, Express & Star reports.

The sites include the former Three Crowns School, Daw End Special School, the old Mary Elliott School and Beechdale School.

It comes as the authority has made a raft of cost-cutting measures to services including closing libraries and putting council tax up 4.99% from next month.

The Labour-run council considered the land as ‘surplus to requirement’ and said the money generated will go towards its capital programme. But opposition councillors warned the council was now running out of land to sell off.

Councillor Mike Bird, leader of the Conservative group in Walsall, said: “Over the last few years, it has been the policy of the council to sell off land surplus to requirements and use that money to fund its capital programme like schools.

“The council wouldn’t have the money for capital spending otherwise so this has been beneficial.

“But unfortunately we are coming to the stage now where we don’t have much land left. As we are getting less land left, we have to get our best use of the land.”

The highest earning plot of land that the council sold off was the former Three Crowns School, located on Skip Lane, which earned the authority £1,503,000.

The school closed in 2006, despite then objections from the Park Hall Residents Association, councillor Rose Martin, and Walsall South MP Valerie Vaz.

Three other former school sites made the list for the top five highest earning plots of land.

The second highest-earning was the former Daw End Special School, on Floyds Lane in Rushall, which was sold for £1,137,146. Daw End was was re-established as Elmwood School within the old Manor Farm Comprehensive School site.

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Third on the list was the former Beechdale School which was sold off for £591,387. The old school in Remington Road closed in 2007 and was demolished. Parents and pupils had previously campaigned to stop the closure of the school.

In October 2015, planning bosses gave the go ahead for the second phase of a housing development for 80 homes to be built on the site. Forty homes had already been built on the site as part of a £5m development by the Accord Group.

The former site of Mary Elliot School in Brewer Street, Rysecroft, which was fifth on the list, was sold off for £514,000. Staff and pupils at Mary Elliott Special School transferred to a £6m purpose-built centre in Leamore Lane in 2008.

Simon Neilson, executive director for economy and environment at the council, said: “The money raised will be used fund aspects of the Council’s capital programme which are not funded from grants or other sources.”

The figures were revealed following a Freedom Of Information request by the Express & Star.

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