Home   Kent   News   Article

Kent County Council sells £14.6 million of land and buildings including school playing fields to housing developers

Kent County Council (KCC) has sold large swathes of land and buildings, including school playing fields, libraries and education centres, to housing developers over the last three years.

A Freedom of Information request has revealed the local authority has made £26 million from disposing of assets from April 2019 to March 2022.

Eight of the 27 buyers, representing £14.6 million of the sales, have been housing developers and property firms. Sales include greenspace land, such as school playing fields and other vacant land.

KCC opposition leader Anthony Hook, of the Liberal Democrats, objected to selling council assets to the “highest bidder”. He said: "I would like to see the community use of these sites given a lot of weight.”

However, the county council says the disposal of "surplus" assets is of better benefit to Kent residents because it allows more money to be reinvested into existing public services, such as social care and education.

The FOI submitted to KCC shows that borough councils, NHS and housing developers are the main buyers of county council assets from 2019 to 2022.

Sites sold include former schools, day centres and care homes, along with multi-million pound purchases of playing fields.

The sale of playing fields at Swanley Technology College brought in more than £4m
The sale of playing fields at Swanley Technology College brought in more than £4m

The county council says holding onto unused property, without a clear reason, will represent a "drain" on its budget.

KCC's deputy leader, Cllr Peter Oakford (Con) said: "Asset disposals are reinvested into the council’s capital programme and support, among other projects, the building of schools and investment into Kent’s highways.”

Under this, Swanley Technology College’s playing field brought in the biggest return for KCC of £4.7m in September 2019 - sold to developer Keepmoat Homes in April 2019. This was followed by former playing field in Deal's Freemens Way, was sold to Dandara for housing in March. They went for £4m.

Read more: The parts of Kent where planning rulebook could be torn up

Maidstone's former Royal Mail site, in Sandling Road, was sold to Maidstone Borough Council for £2.5million in March 2022 for residential development.

The Dorothy Lucy care home in the town was also sold, in March 2020 for £2.4million, amid much protest about its closure, to make way for a private care home.

The next highest return was from the sale of land north of Northfleet's Dover Road (£1.9m) purchased by Stonechart Property Ltd in May 2019 followed by land to the north west side of Fougeres Way, Ashford, bought by Pentland Homes Ltd and Explore Investments in July 2020 for £1.2m.

County councillor Peter Oakford
County councillor Peter Oakford

Sittingbourne's Kent Adult Education Centre, in College Road, was bought by Wildwood Ltd in July 2020 for £1.1million to accommodate 22 new homes.

Wouldham Primary School's playing field was bought by Heath Farm Ltd in May 2019 for £1m.

All other payments were six figures or less.

The other developers to buy KCC land were Ebbsfleet Development Corporation (Land and buildings on the north side of Grove Road, Northfleet, £900,000); Ridge View Design and Build (former Bearsted Library and school house, £702,000) and Bellway Homes (Land on the north side of Vauxhall Place, Dartford, £20,000).

Maidstone council was not the only local authority to buy assets from KCC. In December 2021 Ashford Borough Council parted with £550,000 for land at St Stephen's Walk in the town.

The former Royal Mail delivery and sorting office in Sandling Road was sold to Maidstone council
The former Royal Mail delivery and sorting office in Sandling Road was sold to Maidstone council

Seven of the sites were purchased by private individuals, including the former Benenden Church of England Primary School in the Green, in Cranbrook which was sold to four people in March 2022 for £768,000.

Health bodies were also among the buyers. Land at Four Elms Road, Edenbridge, was sold to Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust and Cooper Estates for £700,000 in January 2020 to accommodate the £13.5million Edenbridge Memorial Health Centre while Northfleet Day Centre, in Coldharbour Road was bought by Alzheimer's and Dementia support service (£300,000).

Cllr Oakford, who is also KCC's cabinet member for finance, added: “I meet the property team monthly to discuss all property disposals, review progress and discuss the disposal pipeline. I fully support the work of the property team."

However, Kent county councillors from across all political parties are divided over selling unused council assets, notably greenspaces for house building.

Conservative county councillor Rory Love, in support of the sales, said: “Any assets earmarked for disposal should be sold to the highest bidder.

The former Adult Education Centre in Sittingbourne is set to be converted into 22 homes
The former Adult Education Centre in Sittingbourne is set to be converted into 22 homes

“If it is no longer required, we should give the best possible value for the taxpayer.”

In contrast, Labour county councillor Alister Brady (Lab) said: “I believe open spaces are undervalued, which do not take into account the community value.”

He added: “The sites are worth billions of pounds to the UK for residents' wellbeing and for people to go and relax.”

Cllr Robert Thomas (Con), who is KCC's policy and resources committee chair, added: “The receipts we take in from sales are used to invest in future capital projects. Letting the experts get on with it is best.”

Close This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.Learn More