Sheffield Council made £36.5 million selling community spaces
Sheffield City Council made more than £36 million in four years selling spaces including schools, historic buildings, libraries and playing fields to help balance their books.
The figures were revealed in Freedom of Information requests submitted by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.
A former school site, King Ecgbert, in Dore fetched the most amount of money at more than £6.3 million in 2016.
That same year councils were given new powers to sell off such spaces to help with funding.
The following year, in 2017, Sheffield Council had a spike in the number of spots they sold, raising £4.8 million from 78 spaces.
Councillor Douglas Johnson, City ward representative, said it was an attempt to get rid of responsibility.
He said: “Obviously the council does sometimes have reason to sell off surplus properties but a lot of the time, it seems to be to get rid of responsibilities.
“And there have been really controversial sell-offs like Mount Pleasant in Sharrow and the threatened sale of Birley Spa Bath House.”
In the case of Birley Spa Bath House, a 177 year old Grade II-listed Victorian property, the council planned to sell it off with a guide price of up to £100,000, without consulting the public.
This sparked outrage in the community and a friends group was set up to fight to keep it in the public’s hands.
After some time the council decided to postpone the sale for further talks. The group successfully made the site an asset of community value, meaning they can now raise money and bid for it, and are also looking to become a charity.
But some other places have not been as successful.
Despite this, council officers insist “releasing vacant and unused land isn’t just about raising money”.
In one case they sold what they called an ‘outdated’ library in Woodseats to a local GP practise which helped develop a shared library and doctors’ surgery, which they say led to a 50 percent increase in people using the new facilities.
Part of the land lost was used to build 3,000 new homes – including the former Bannerdale Centre where a new school and 62 homes were created – 16 of which are affordable.
They added that selling the land also allows for more homes and jobs and generates money through business rates and council tax.
They said: “In all of these cases, the value to the local economy in terms of ongoing regeneration, jobs and well-being has far outweighed the sale price achieved and shows our commitment to getting the very best out of often redundant or unused land.”