Berkshire

Reading council agreed pool sale despite 'higher offers'

Arthur Hill Campaign
Image caption The Arthur Hill Campaign group has protested against the council's decision to sell the pool

A council agreed to sell a community swimming pool to property developers despite receiving other higher bids and offers to keep the facility in use.

Reading Borough Council was ordered by the Information Commissioner to release details explaining its decision to sell the Arthur Hill swimming pool.

A report shows a preferred bid of £1.15m was chosen last year but the sale has not yet been completed.

The council said "every bid was given full and proper consideration".

Image copyright Google
Image caption Arthur Hill Memorial Baths opened on 29 November 1911

The pool building on Kings Road was built in 1911 on land donated for community use by the family of Arthur Hill, the mayor of Reading between 1883 and 1887.

It was closed in December 2016 after councillors deemed it too expensive to maintain and decided to sell.

Reading council was warned it faced contempt of court action if it failed to disclose the full report explaining its decision by 25 June after initially releasing a redacted version.

The document shows the authority received 16 offers for the site from nine interested parties, ranging from £250,000 to £2m, the Local Democracy Reporting Service said.

The highest bid involved building a hotel.

Three of the prospective buyers had planned to re-open the pool and a fourth wanted to purchase it for community use.

Image caption Reading council said it would have had to spend £700,000 to bring the building up to standard

Councillors were advised to accept an unconditional offer from One of a Kind Developments on the basis it was expected to be a quicker deal to complete than other conditional offers.

A spokesman for the Arthur Hill Campaign said the details released raised "some very worrying questions about how the winning bidder was selected and why".

A Reading council spokesman said it had been "completely open" about its disposal of the building and was still negotiating with its preferred bidder.

He added: "Contrary to belief, local authorities do not automatically accept the highest offer for any building.

"In some cases unconditional offers can be quicker and more beneficial than those with conditions attached."

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