Land sale to Lex Greensill paused by council following lobbying row
Cheshire West and Chester Council has paused the sale of council-owned land to Lex Greensill following recent lobbying revelations.
The Labour-controlled local authority has confirmed that it has commissioned its internal audit service to carry out a review of the transaction, which would see approximately 502 acres of the Shotwick Park farms estate sold to the billionaire businessman.
Greensill secured the deal after telling councillors that he planned to create a wildlife haven to help address the growing threat of climate change and that the public would have access to the land.
A proposal to sell the land was approved in principle during a council cabinet meeting on February 10 but the sale has not yet been completed.
The review of the transaction process comes after Greensill was caught up in recent revelations that former Prime Minister David Cameron had lobbied Government ministers, including Chancellor Rishi Sunak, on behalf of Greensill Capital, which collapsed in March.
In a statement, Andrew Lewis, chief executive of Cheshire West and Chester Council, said: “Cheshire West and Chester Council has been in discussion with agents of Mr. Lex Greensill, to explore the sale of farmland in Shotwick, Cheshire, surrounding his family home.
“The proposal to sell was approved in principle by the council’s Cabinet on February 10. Mr. Greensill’s proposals are in the public domain, a paper setting out the background to the proposed sale was published in advance of the Cabinet meeting, and the decision was taken in a public meeting.
“The sale is not yet complete. Mr. Greensill approached the council with a proposal to invest in a comprehensive planting and environmental scheme for the land, which included maintaining and securing public access over rights of way.
“The proposed sale price meets the requirement for councils to secure best value, enabling re-investment of the proceeds in other investment priorities of the council. It has support from the local community and parish council.
“In the light of developments in Mr. Greensill’s business, the council has sought assurances from Mr. Greensill that his commitment to invest in the local environment, and to deliver the programme of improvements to the land for wider community benefit as envisaged in his original proposal, remain unaffected.
“The Council has acted with full transparency and integrity in its relationship with Mr. Greensill and his agents, and we have received no evidence or suggestions otherwise.
“Given the high level of public interest in Mr. Greensill’s relationship with central government, the council has commissioned our Internal Audit service to review all aspects of work undertaken on this transaction, to further assure our residents that best value has been secured, and that the steps taken by the Council at every stage in the transaction demonstrate integrity, due diligence and good governance.
“All aspects of this audit will be reported publicly to the Council’s Audit and Governance Committee, and also made available to Nigel Boardman’s review. The land transaction will not be progressed unless and until appropriate assurances are in place.”