Bid to get rail project on track
A COUNCIL is planning to spend £20,000 to compulsorily purchase land standing in the way of a multi-million pound development.
The project to redevelop Crewe railway station has been hampered because part of the site does not belong to Cheshire East Council.
The council bought Royal Mail's former depot, off Weston Road, for the £6.2 million Crewe Rail Exchange project.
But the authority has been unable to trace the owner of a strip of land to the south west of Weston Road, which forms part of a proposed new car park.
The council is now planning to impose a compulsory purchase order (CPO) on the land, which is classed as a highway, to allow the development to go ahead.
A report prepared for cabinet members states: "Despite extensive research and inquiries, no person with ownership of the CPO land is identifiable and therefore negotiation is not possible.
"It is therefore appropriate for the council to seek to use CPO.
"The council will follow statutory procedures requiring advertisement of the CPO – this is to ensure that claimants of ownership of the land are aware of the CPO and can make representations if they wish."
The CPO is expected to cost £20,000, but costs could spiral if anyone voices opposition to the purchase.
The report states: "The estimated costs of undertaking a CPO process, assuming there are no objectors and therefore no public inquiry, are up to £20,000.
"If there are objections and a public inquiry, then costs will increase, potentially by a further £10,000 to £20,000 in fees and £15,000 for counsel."
If no one comes forward to claim the land before the purchase, the council will also have to pay statutory compensation to a court.
Anyone who later comes forward and can prove ownership can claim the money.
If no one claims it within a set period – generally 12 years – it would be repaid to the council.
The Crewe Rail Exchange, will include a new car park, taxi rank and subway access to the station.
When it is complete, the council will lease the site to Network Rail at a peppercorn rate.
Funding for the development was secured from the Government's £100 million rail stations improvement fund.
Steve Hogben, Labour councillor for Crewe South, said he hoped the situation with the land would be resolved quickly.
"It looks to me like that land has slipped through some legal loophole," he said.
"We were getting somewhere with the project at last and there is this hitch. Hopefully that's all it's going to be and we can get on with it.
"I hope there is no complication and it doesn't delay matters.
"We want to see progress on this."
Chris Thorley, Labour councillor for Crewe East, said improving the station was vital for the town.
"It's most important that the plans go-ahead," he said.
"The improvement of Crewe is very reliant on this important project.
"I would also like to see the bus station there, and a park and a ride scheme set up at the site."