Frustration over speed of change

THE Deputy Leader of the county council has spoken of his frustration at the speed of its land asset transfer process.

Since it gained unitary status, the authority has been looking to pass on some of its facilities to town and parish councils if they do not already have the responsibility for them.

Bus shelters, public toilets, war memorials and public seats are among those that have been switched, but buildings, parks and land which could be transformed into new play areas or skateparks are generally not as straightforward.

At a meeting with north area town and parish councils in Stannington Village Hall, Coun Roger Styring said: “In the current economic situation, we are no longer able to look after some of our assets and we have been and are looking to transfer across those that we believe are better off with local authorities.

“But we are encountering problems with some legal arrangements, particularly with parcels of land where it isn’t obvious who has the entitlement and so we have to try and find the owner.

“As a result, passing things on can often be a long process. As anyone who has been involved in selling a house knows, it can take a while to sort out all the details.

“We encourage town and parish councils to take on a lease with a peppercorn rent rather than wanting to have the deeds, as we tell them this will involve complex negotiations between solicitors on both sides.”

During the discussions, Lynemouth county councillor Milburn Douglas said there were concerns from small parish councils, including Cresswell, that if they were forced to take on some facilities they would have to significantly raise their precepts to maintain services at their current levels.

He asked Coun Styring that the Executive should take this into account when deciding on its future transfer programmes.