Cheshire West and Chester Council has said it will not progress the sale of farmland to Lex Greensill, the financier caught up in a central government lobbying row, “unless and until appropriate assurances are in place”.
The council has been in discussion with agents of Mr Greenwill over the potential sale of the land at Shotwick, which surrounds his family home.
Cheshire West and Chester’s Cabinet approved the sale in principle at a meeting on 10 February.
In an update on the latest position, council chief executive Andrew Lewis said: “Mr. Greensill’s proposals are in the public domain, a paper setting out the background to the proposed sale was published in advance of the Cabinet meeting, and the decision was taken in a public meeting. The sale is not yet complete.
“Mr. Greensill approached the council with a proposal to invest in a comprehensive planting and environmental scheme for the land, which included maintaining and securing public access over rights of way. The proposed sale price meets the requirement for councils to secure best value, enabling re-investment of the proceeds in other investment priorities of the Council. It has support from the local community and Parish Council.”
However, Mr Lewis added that “in the light of developments in Mr. Greensill’s business”, the council had sought assurances from him that his commitment to invest in the local environment, and to deliver the programme of improvements to the land for wider community benefit as envisaged in his original proposal, remained unaffected.
Mr Lewis maintained that Cheshire West and Chester had “acted with full transparency and integrity in its relationship with Mr. Greensill and his agents, and we have received no evidence or suggestions otherwise”.
But he said that, given the high level of public interest in Mr Greensill’s relationship with central government, the council had commissioned its Internal Audit service to review all aspects of work undertaken on the transaction, “to further assure our residents that best value has been secured, and that the steps taken by the council at every stage in the transaction demonstrate integrity, due diligence and good governance”.
All aspects of this audit will be reported publicly to the council’s Audit and Governance Committee, and also made available to the review being carried out by City lawyer Nigel Boardman.
Greensill Capital collapsed in March, leading to 305 redundancies in Daresbury in Cheshire, the BBC has reported.