POOLE councillors voted to accept a £400,000 offer tonight for land previously earmarked for a travellers’ temporary stopping site.
Commercial property company Forelle Estates wants to develop the plot, at Marshes End, Creekmoor, Poole, into a landmark office building that could create 200 jobs.
Speaking at Poole Civic Centre’s extraordinary council meeting, initially called for by the town’s three Creekmoor ward councillors, Borough of Poole leader Cllr Elaine Atkinson said: “I believe the offer went up and up to try to influence the planning committee, but this didn't happen. I don't think people were influenced on the planning committee, I think that the planning committee sat and made their decision on the reports that were before them.
"Whilst I agree that the money was offered to buy us off and I agree it was tainted, the site is tainted. Let's get on with it, let's sell it, let's get some office accommodation on there, and let’s have a real gateway.
"We still have the influence through planning to say what it should look like and what it should do, and I think on that basis it should go forward."
Meanwhile, Creekmoor ward councillor Judy Butt, who says the money raised could be used to finance a private land deal to help end the borough’s search for a suitable traveller transit site, said: "This is an opportune moment for us and we should be taking it up."
She added: "I urge everyone in the chamber to think long and hard. Failure to accept this bid will lead to having the same old scruffy piece of land there for another 20 years."
Forelle Estates lodged its increased offer days before Borough of Poole planning committee members met to consider the travellers’ sites applications. These two proposals were eventually ruled against.
The company’s initial £250,000 offer for Marshes End was turned down in February by the borough’s chief executive John McBride.
Forelle then upped its offer to £350,000 and finally to £400,000 three days before the planning committee convened at Poole’s Lighthouse Theatre.
After planning committee members ruled against the traveller site proposals, there was speculation the Forelle offer – which only remains on the table until Monday (March 31) – may have been withdrawn.
But the Poole property company, which owns Forelle House and Phoenix House next to the Marshes End site, insists it is serious about forging ahead with the new office build.
Managing director Michael Price says Poole is in need of extra office space and that the £400,000 offer is twice the level of an independent open market valuation for the plot.
The council voted to accept the offer with 17 for, 12 against and two abstentions.