Plans to sell an area of green open space with a park on it have been met with anger and dismay by residents.
Some people living in Belvoir Close in Stamford received a letter on Saturday informing them of the sale of the popular piece of land near their homes, while others found out from their neighbours.
It is believed the land is still owned by the developer of the site Jelson Homes and it is due to be auctioned on Wednesday with a guide price of £4,000. Shonki Brothers, of Leicester, are marketing the site.
Any buyer of the site would not be able to develop on it because of a Section 106 agreement attached to the site when planning permission was granted.
But that has offered little reassurance to residents, who say the sale has left them uncertain about the future.
Mark Thomas, of Belvoir Close, Stamford, has two children, who regularly use the playarea and is “outraged” by the plans to sell it.
He said: “It was a bit of a shock, to say the least, that it could have been sold from right under our noses.
“The children use the park all the time and the area of green space is used frequently as well.”
Despite the news that any buyer would not be able to build on the land, he was still concerned about its future, adding: “Anything could happen to it.”
Neil Henson, a father-of-two, also voiced his concerns in a post to Facebook, members of the travelling community could move onto the site or it could be ill-kept.
In a letter to the Mercury, he said: “We just can’t get past the fact that some of the previous lots that have been sold off around Stamford have been left untouched with grass sometimes knee high with rats running through it.
“Imagine if this was outside your house. It’s quite a good sized piece of land for not much money. Heaven forbid it becomes a caravan park or something like that.”
He added that Jelson had “seriously tarnished their good reputation with Stamford folk”.
The land is on the border of Lincolnshire and Rutland and as such, falls under Rutland County Council.
A spokesman said: “The council is unable to block the sale of Belvoir Close playarea. However, the relevant Section 106 agreement is binding and will transfer to anyone who purchases the site.
“The agreement prevents the owner from using the site for anything other than a public open space. They must also transfer the land to Rutland County Council when requested and pay a financial contribution for 10 years of maintenance.”
The spokesman went onto say that the transfer has not yet been done as there are “several maintenance issues” that need to be addressed. This responsibility lies with the owner of the land.
Rutland MP Sir Alan Duncan added: “I took this up with the council immediately and have secured confirmation that the planning agreements mean this play area has to remain a public space even if it is sold. The council would also be able to take it over and demand maintenance payments for 10 years from any buyer in future.
“This will guarantee residents don’t lose this valued and protected public space.”
Jelson’s director Terry McGreal told the Mercury that it had hoped to pass the play area onto Rutland County Council but said the council “keep coming up with reasons why they can’t take it”.
He added that the reason for the sale was that Jelson has a contractual obligation to maintain the playarea, which it believes it’s doing adequately, but at a high cost.
Mr McGreal added: “We just want to draw the matter to a close. As far as we’re concerned, it’s in a suitable state to pass onto the council and we can’t understand why the council won’t adopt the land.”
It is not the first time Jelson has come under fire for selling off plots of open space.
In 2014, Stamford town councillor John Dawson was among those who purchased several plots at an auction of 17 plots on the Scottish estate. Five more plots were sold months later, despite hundreds of people signing a petition called ‘Stop Jelson Homes Profiting from Stamford’s green spaces’,
Since then, there has been accusations that some of the sold plots have not been kept in good order by the new owners.