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Calls for further scrutiny of £4.3m council spend to open up Top Wighay site

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An opposition group has called for extra checks on a Nottinghamshire County Council decision to spend £4.3m to help start development at the major Top Wighay Farm project.

The council approved a delegated decision on May 10 outlining how the cash will unlock the land for hundreds of houses, a new council office and other community facilities like a school.

Delegated decisions are taken outside of public council meetings, meaning they are not debated in public.

A report on the plan said the major site, near Hucknall and Linby, was on track for new development with housebuilder Vistry likely to submit detailed plans next month.

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And it confirmed construction and building work on the site is expected to cost the council £4.078m during this year and the next financial year.

This includes a road and roundabout into the site to allow several new projects to take shape.

A further £305,012 will fund professional fees for the wider Top Wighay project.

This includes costs for all stages of development and planning, as well as site surveys and costs to the authority’s contractor Arc Partnership.

However, the Independent Alliance opposition group has now ‘called in’ the decision and claimed the Conservative-led authority is not being “transparent”.

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To ‘call in’ a decision means the contents of the report and the decision itself could be reviewed and debated by one of the council’s scrutiny committees.

This can happen when some councillors fear there are issues with the decision, the reasons it was taken or the impact it may have.

In a letter to Marjorie Toward, the council’s monitoring officer, the group said council reports included “no detail other than general costings on how this money will be spent”.

It also said there was “no guarantee this work will be carried out on budget” or details of how the spending ties in with the £15.7m budget for a planned new council office building on the land.

The letter, penned by Cllr Dave Shaw (Ash Ind), who represents Hucknall West, was also signed by Cllrs John Wilmott, Lee Waters and Tom Hollis (all Ash Ind) and Steve Carr (Lib Dem).

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In the letter, Cllr Shaw said: “It is our view that a key decision made that is spending over £4m of taxpayer’s money should be made with all facts being considered by all councillors and therefore the council is not being transparent.

“It is not clear whether the £4,38m is part of the overall £15.7m that has been budgeted for the [new office] project.

“It is our collective view that costs relating to Top Wighay are spiralling out of control and this call-in is necessary before any more public money is wasted.”

In response, the authority confirmed the £4.3m is included in the wider £15.7m budget for the new Top Wighay building.

The council did not provide a comment addressing the group’s specific points but said the call-in is currently being reviewed by Ms Toward and the democratic services department.

Further details on whether a scrutiny committee meeting is likely to be called to review the decision will be confirmed once the letter has been assessed by officers.

Once complete, the wider site is expected to feature the new council building, a school and at least 805 homes.

However, more than 600 further homes could also be built on the land – which falls in the Gedling borough – under separate plans to extend the site in the future.

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