Recession bites as Leeds City Council property sales plummet EXCLUSIVE

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Cash-strapped Leeds City Council’s hopes of boosting its coffers by selling surplus properties and land have been badly dented by the economic downturn.

Figures show that at the height of the market in 2007-08 the council netted £21.6m from sales – with seven sites sold for over £1m and eight for over £500,000.

But the bubble has burst and over the past few years average annual sales have slumped by 66 per cent to around £7m.

The disposal of brownfield sites, which include vacant building and previously developed land, brought in £12m in 2007-08 and has slumped to an average of £2.4m in the four years since.

A council report says: “Since the height of the market in 2007-08 there has been a marked downturn in the sale and development of all council-owned sites, reflected in both a fall in land values and the volume of land the council has been able to sell for development.”

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The Yorkshire Evening Post recently revealed that last year the council spent nearly £1m on maintaining and securing empty buildings it still owns.

Councillors have raised concerns about the time it can take for surplus properties and sites to be sold.

In one case this has been over 20 years for Bramham House in Bramham, near Wetherby, which remains on the market.

The report to the council’s housing and regeneration scrutiny board has been looking into the sale and development of brownfield land.

It states that the council currently had 136 vacant sites or unused buildings on its books.

It said many of the sites were located in “challenging markets or in areas where there is no property market to speak of”.

Over 20 of the brownfield sites are being held for alternative council uses.

This includes the former wholesale market in Cross Green which has been earmarked for an incinerator.

The report said marketing, technical checks and planning measures were all undertaken to try to make sites and properties more attractive to potential buyers.

Coun John Procter, scrutiny board chairman, told the YEP: “I can understand the need to hold on to some sites.

“But in many cases it would be better to accept even a small sum to get rid of unwanted sites and get regeneration going.”

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