Following the announcement that East Staffordshire Borough Council had settled claims with M J Barrett (Developments) Limited (MJB) regarding proposals some years ago for a new Cattle Market at Uttoxeter, the Council has provided further information explaining the reasons for that agreement.
In 2005, discussions took place regarding the possibility of building a new Cattle Market on land owned by the Council off The Dove Way, Uttoxeter. The talks involved the Council, MJB and the operators of the former Cattle Market, Bagshaws. The old Cattle Market closed in late 2005. Over the next three years MJB made a series of planning applications for the proposed development.
In 2007, Bagshaws indicated that they would not be able to operate the new Cattle Market on the terms previously discussed. So in 2008, the Council decided to commission an external report to consider the need for a new Cattle Market and whether or not it was financially viable at that time. That report concluded that a new Cattle Market would only be viable with significant public subsidy. As this was not possible, the Council decided not to go ahead with a new Cattle Market, a decision which has not been challenged.
Four years later, in June last year, MJB and Malcolm Barrett issued proceedings against the Council claiming approximately £200,000 plus interest and costs. A Council spokesman said “The basis for the claim was essentially that it would be unfair for the Council not to reimburse MJB for the work it had done because of the ongoing encouragement which MJB alleged the Council and the then Leader of the Council, Alex Fox MBE, had given to MJB to pursue the development, without any contract to do so. The Council defended itself stoically against the claim believing the Borough Council had not duly authorised the encouragement of the development”.
Following protracted negotiations with MJB and after taking legal advice from a barrister and external solicitors, the Council has now agreed to settle the claim (without admission of liability) for £150,000 including interest and costs in order to avoid the risk of future legal costs.
A Council spokesman added that “it was disappointing that the claim had been made but it was very clearly in the best interests of tax payers that it had been settled in this way”.
As has already been reported, the Council is currently pursuing a scheme to use the land for other commercial purposes which is expected to result in a significant cash injection for the Council, as opposed to a new Cattle Market which would have been an ongoing drain on resources.