Wales politics

Legal action over £21m RIFW public land sale scandal

Land sites locator graphic
Image caption The 15 sites sold in one deal included farmland and former industrial locations

Legal action will be taken against a firm which undervalued Welsh Government-owned land costing the taxpayer millions of pounds.

The 15 sites were sold for £21m by the Regeneration Investment Fund for Wales (RIFW) on the advice of property advisors Lambert Smith Hampton.

But the Wales Audit Office found they could have raised £39m sold separately.

The firm, which has been asked to comment, has been referred to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.

The move comes after a report by the assembly's public accounts committee said there were weaknesses in the oversight of the sale and board members were given poor information by Lambert Smith Hampton.

It described the sale as "scandalous" saying the fact South Wales Land Developments (SWLD), which bought some of the land, had since sold on a number of sites at a profit, showed they had been undervalued.

They included one site in Rhoose, Vale of Glamorgan, which was bought from the taxpayer for less than £3m and has since been sold on for housing for £10.5m.

Another in Abergele, Conwy county, was bought for £100,000, and sold on for £1.9m.

The so-called "jewel in the crown" site in Lisvane on the edge of Cardiff was bought for £1.8m.

The report said it now had a potential open market valuation of at least £39m, although around a third of that would be paid back to the public purse in what is called a claw-back arrangement.

The findings of the report prompted First Minister Carwyn Jones to publicly apologise to AMs, saying the handling of the sale fell well below the standards expected.

In its official response to the committee, the Welsh Government confirmed a legal process against Lambert Smith Hampton had begun and evidence regarding its conduct had been handed to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors for scrutiny.

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