COUNCILLORS have agreed to a series of changes to the way they buy land after concerns were raised over the purchase of fields near Worcester.

The council’s decision to buy 45 acres of land at Hallow, near Worcester, for £180,000, to be used for the council's future environmental plans was scrutinised at a meeting of Malvern Hills District Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee.

Issues surrounding the decision to purchase the land concerned the speed with which the council bought it, why they chose that specific piece of land, and whether the process to push the sale through was in line with the council’s constitution.

Councillors had said they felt there had been no consultation, with the purchase of the land seemingly coming out of the blue.

Councillors were asked to consider two issues raised by Conservative councillor Paul Cumming.

Cllr Cumming said: “I would like to suggest some improvements which have been shown up by this process.

“There were several aspects of what happened which do not comply with our constitution.

“What I want to put forward is when a report is prepared for signing (in future) - we have a checklist on there, in the same way we do with other reports and agendas.

“Part of what goes on there should be that it is checked whether it goes in accordance with our constitution.”

Cllr Cumming added: “The second thing on there which would be beneficial is a business plan, because when funding was put aside for the carbon reduction plan, the report confirmed a business report would be prepared.

“There doesn’t seem to be one, though I understand no decision was made as to exactly what was to happen to this plan and I think that should be the first thing we do when we decide to buy something: what exactly are we going to do with it?”

READ MORE: Council faces 'serious questions' over decision to buy land at Hallow near Worcester

Cllr Cumming also asked the council to confirm when exactly the land was bought.

This, according to deputy chief executive Andy Baldwin, was around three weeks ago.

According to a council report prepared about the land, the council bought 45.47 acres of land at £4,289 per acre. This made a total of £180,000 spent on the land.

According to the council, this was “well below the market value” and was “exceptional value for money.”

READ MORE: Why did Malvern Hills District Council buy 45 acres of land near Worcester

The land was bought by the council as “carbon capture” land, to be planted and used as part of the council’s environmental plans for the future.

Options discussed at the committee meeting included using it as part of a natural burial ground and a nature reserve, though the burial ground idea was dismissed as the land sits on a flood plain.

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Responding to Cllr Cumming, council leader Sarah Rouse said: “On the business plan issue, I would like to refer back to things that have happened in the past like the Blackmore Park purchase and QinetiQ, we did not have a specific business plan when we purchased those.

“What we had was an idea of what we wanted to do with them, and I think it is the same here with the field.”

As a result of the concerns raised, the committee agreed in future to notify opposition councillors, as well as putting in checks on future purchases.