Rt Hon Lord Lilley

    An investigation by the all-Party Public Accounts Committee into the sale of
    Napsbury Hospital today highlights the failings of the then Liberal Democrat
    controlled St Albans District Council. Mr. Lilley asked the cross-party
    Parliamentary Committee to look into the huge costs incurred during the
    planning appeal enquiry on the sale of Napsbury Hospital.

    Peter Lilley said:

    “This is one of the most damning reports by this powerful all-Party
    Committee which I have ever seen. It holds the then Liberal Democrat
    controlled St Albans District Council‘s policy as “unreasonable”, “wholly
    inadequate”, lacking a “coherent, consistent and realistic policy”. As a
    result it holds the then Council responsible for “those additional costs”
    some ?340,000 of which fall directly on the local council taxpayer and
    ?800,000 fell on the NHS (more than enough to save the Hemel Hempstead
    maternity unit).

    “I originally referred this to the Committee because the planning system
    itself seemed ludicrously costly. The Chairman says, “You were quite right
    to draw attention to the waste of money in the planning arrangements.” Now
    that it emerges that the Council itself was largely responsible for the
    scale of the waste I believe it is important to bring this appalling
    mismanagement out into the open so that the electorate can hold those
    responsible to account.

    “The problem arose because, between 1995 and 1998, the then Liberal Democrat
    Council declared a Conservation area as a kind of ‘back door listing‘, and
    locally listed every building in sight without paying enough attention to
    the question of which buildings were worth preserving. But as the report
    says, “it was unreasonable for the Council…to refuse to give any
    indication which buildings it most wished to keep”. The Council also failed
    to call its Conservation Officer during the planning appeal inquiry to
    explain why there had been a policy reversal since the early 1990s.

    “The costly planning appeal could have been avoided had the previous Lib Dem
    administration not delayed the sale through its own incompetence. It is
    interesting that local Liberal Democrats are unwilling to discuss the affair
    until after the local elections and yet are calling for greater transparency
    in local government.”