Otterpool Park Update: Council Offer £25 million to purchase Racecourse from Reuben Brothers

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Folkestone & Hythe District Council have received a valuation of between £22 – 36 million pounds for the land owned by the Reuben Brothers company, Cozumel Estates Limited.

We know the council via John Bunnett (pictured), Corporate Director of Place & Commercial made an offer to Cozumel Estates Ltd of £25 million on or around the 16th Dec 2019. Add in taxes and lawyers this will rise to approx £26.2 million

We know on the £16th Dec 2019, £50,000 was paid as a deposit and exclusivity agreement for purchase of the racecourse and all other property owned by the Reuben Brothers company, Cozumel Estates Ltd, within the boundary of Otterpool Park.

When one adds in the costs, eg legal etc, the total price would be £26.2 million. If the Reuben brothers do not accept the offer then John has been given a 10% financial leeway, meaning he could stretch to approx £27.5 million and with legal fees etc this would rise to £30 million.

On the 16th Dec the Otterpool Working group met, as we understand the leaders of the Opposition groups were also present. All those in the room were privy to “commercially sensitive” offer which was to be made to Cozumel Estates.  As such all Cllrs present at that meeting were under an obligation to keep this information private and confidential. However, one Cllr recorded the meeting and passed that information to a third party, who then in written form passed it to the SV team. We had hold of the information within 90 minutes of the meeting ending.

On the 20th Dec, the Cabinet meet behind closed doors (item 55) to discuss this offer. After a unanimous vote (5 for none against) the offer to Cozumel Estates was made.

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Cabinet members were informed the Reuben Brothers have a habit of playing games and asking for more money. Because of this the Cabinet gave Corporate Director John Bunnett an additional 10% margin to play with financially, meaning the offer could rise to close to £27.5 million (not including fees etc). However, the land might cost more than this, as the cat is out of the bag and the Reuben Brothers employees can certainly read.

Any offer accepted by Cozumel Estates will be drawn down from the £100 million Full Council granted back in November 2019. The £100 million will be borrowed from the Public Works Loan Board at 1.9% as we understand, over what period of time though is not yet known.

The model the Council intend to use is called the Swiss model whereby you borrow the money and service the debt, but do not pay off the capital. This is similar to an interest only mortgage.

We also understand that some of the announced 1,000 new Council homes will be part of the potential 8,500 homes built at Otterpool Park, if planning permission is granted.

Now as we said in our last piece last Sunday, several members of the Otterpool Working Group, let this information slip after one to many glasses of alcohol over the New Year period. They were all informed that this is “commercially sensitive” information. However, they were not the only Cllrs who were privy to this information. Cabinet Members of Folkestone & Hythe District Council were privy as well.

Section 170 of the Data Protection Act 2018 makes it an offence for a person knowingly or recklessly to “obtain or disclose personal data without the consent of the controller“. The Councillors who have disclosed the information about Folkestone & Hythe District Council intention to acquire the Reuben Brothers/Cozumel Estates Ltd land have disclosed this “commercially sensitive” information and the data controller of this information is Folkestone & Hythe District Council. We are certain the Council did not give any of the Cllrs, who disclosed the information, their consent to do so. As such, the Council can now bring a case against these Cllrs, if they know who they are. Also the Council must report itself to the Information Commissioner’s Office as there has been a data breach. Let’s hope that it will comply with the law.

By releasing this information Cllrs have harmed the Council’s interests, as this could end up costing them far more than they intended.

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No doubt the Head of Paid Service, Dr Susan Priest (pictured above left) and Corporate Director for Place & Commercial, John Bunnett (pictured above right) would like to shoot the messenger. But it wasn’t the messenger who released the confidential information in the first instance, it was Cllrs.

As we understand Dr Priest and Mr Bunnett were both livid when the Shepwayvox Team first divulged this information in the public interest, last Sunday. They were livid as they know this will more likely than not end up costing the Council millions more than they intended.

Is it any wonder then why many people simply do not trust Councillors, as some of them are NOT able to keep confidential information, confidential.

The Shepwayvox Team

The Velvet Voices of Dissent

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3 Comments on Otterpool Park Update: Council Offer £25 million to purchase Racecourse from Reuben Brothers

  1. Whilst this and other articles are clearly well intentioned? – Are Shepwayvox doing a service or disservice to the rate paying public of FHDC by publishing and highlighting this information further in to the public domain?

    • shepwayvox // January 13, 2020 at 19:37 // Reply

      LB It is Cllrs – four of them that have disclosed this information to third parties. It is they who may well have done the taxpayer a disservice. As we said, no need to shot the messenger.

  2. doggerbank56 // January 13, 2020 at 14:49 // Reply

    I would agree that sensitive commercial data has been improperly disclosed. However, I would challenge that this is “personal data” unless you can demonstrate that information about named people has been disclosed. An example would be a list of the names and addresses of individuals whose property would be subject to a compulsory purchase order as a result of this development.

    See link below from the Information Commissioners’ Office for their definition.

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