COUNCIL bosses have been asked to explain why they bought a large area of land for £180,000 during the Covid crisis.

The decision by Malvern Hills District Council to buy more than 45 acres of land in Hallow will be put to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee after it was raised at a full meeting of the council on July 21.

Raising the notice of motion, Cllr Paul Cumming (CON) said there were serious issues concerning why the land was bought when it was and the price paid.

He said: “There are a number of lessons we can learn from this, as well as a number of questions which need to be answered. It does not seem right to complete a purchase like this with incomplete and, as it turns out, inaccurate information. We bought 45.47 acres of land at £4,289 per acre and stated this was ‘well below the market value’ - Just a quick couple of minutes on Google shows that was marketed as the guide price in July last year and was to be sold for tender in August.

“There certainly has to be the question of whether the land was worth that figure and if it was known to the council before making that decision.”

We reported in May how the council bought the strip of land, located in Hallow, near Worcester, for around £180,000.

At the time, leader of the council Cllr Sarah Rouse defended the decision, saying it was taken before the coronavirus lockdown and its subsequent economic impact on the district.

She said: “Our carbon reduction plan, Destination Zero, and our Five Year Plan were unanimously approved by councillors from all parties at the start of the year. This included actions to develop carbon storage and pollinator sites and a dedicated £250,000 fund to support projects in the plan.

“Following this we have bought almost 46 acres of land at Hallow. The process to buy the land started before the Covid-19 outbreak. The land has the potential to capture a significant amount of Co2 which will not only offset difficult-to-avoid emissions from the council’s own operations, but will also enhance biodiversity and link habitats. Importantly, it will also provide a site for residents to enjoy and will link to other nature reserves.”

However, at the meeting this week, Cllr Cumming said no business case had been laid out before councillors detailing why the money was spent at that time.

He said: “Where is the business case? We haven’t seen any other than being told it was dirt cheap.

“We don’t know what we are going to do with it. If the land couldn’t sell in nine months, why did we move so fast to buy it?

“The presentation to members left a lot to be desired. The constitution of the council says these matters should be reported to the council, however we had meetings in May with no mention of it.”

The council agreed to send the matter to the Overview and Scrutiny Committee, which will discuss the decisions and examine how the land was bought.