Article reproduced from Marlow Free Press dated 20th August 2010
Click thumbnail photo to read original article
Greenbelt land ‘sold to foreign investors’
‘Plots sold at Middle East exhibition’
FOREIGN investors have been warned greenbelt land they have bought cannot be used to build homes.
Daisy Lee Farm, a 25-acre site in Spinfield Lane, Marlow, has been scoped out by Middle Eastern businessmen, according to nearby residents. The land, listed as an Area of Attractive Landscape’, has been in the greenbelt for 20 years. It is designated for agricultural use.
Article 4 directions — which remove ‘certain permitted development rights’ from the land - have been issued by Wycombe Disfrict Council. The notices have been displayed at the site, where land was being sold to Arab businessmen under the name ‘King’s Estate’, Forty Green Preservation Society said.
Council officials confirmed the land had been offered for sale. Thirty plots out of 41 were sold at an exhibition in the Middle East according to a report in March from arabnews.com.
Documents from the website of GRE Portfolios Limited from July say “prices start from £35,000”. GRE told the Free Press this week it was no longer involved in marketing the land, but declined to comment further. The information from its website in July has been removed.
Society chairman Michael Hyde said his wife had talked with some Arabic-speaking businessmen who visited the site on August 8 and said they had bought land there. They were confused and “disappointed” by the notices, he said.
Residents had been “anxious” about possible development at the site. “We now feel reassured that the council have taken all the steps they can at the present time and we are all speaking with one voice locally,” he said. “We will challenge any attempt to develop the area.”
WDC’s ‘core strategy’ document states it has already identified enough sites for housing in Marlow up to at least 2026 and no sites involve the Green Belt.
Wycombe District Council spokesman Catherine Spalton said: “We’re aware this land is being offered for sale in plots and we have been working closely with local residents to display notices warning prospective buyers that we do not anticipate having to release this land for development. The current direction means that fences, walls and other means of enclosures cannot be erected on the land nor can the land be used for any purpose other than agriculture — therefore not for markets, car boot sales or events. The proposed direction, which is currently out for consultation, would mean that the land could not be used as a caravan site.”
In 2006 Saudi Arabian company Global Real Estate Company was ‘formed to partnership with’ GRE Portfolios in the UK, according to its website.
Article reproduced from Maidenhead Advertiser dated 20th August 2010
Click thumbnail photo to read original article
Investors ‘misled’ over greenbelt land
Marlow: ‘Arabs paying for plots not appropriate for development’
Speed read: DAISY Lee Farm was snapped up by investors towards the end of 2009 and has since been put on the market as 147 separate plots. Residents are concerned that buyers are being misled into purchasing parts of the greenbelt site without knowing the ‘real’ planning prospects for the area.
GREENBELT land is being sold to wealthy Middle Eastern investors who have no idea that it cannot be developed, a residents’ association said this week. Forty Green Preservation Society (FGPS) said the scenic area between Spinfield Lane and Chalkpit Lane was being sold to Arab business¬men under the name the ‘King’s Estate’.
The 25-acre site, previously known as Daisy Lee Farm, is being marketed by GRE Portfolios as 147 individual plots starting from £35,000. Michael Hyde, 72, chairman of FGPS, said not only was the ‘scheme’ affecting foreigners but also worrying residents that the land might be developed. - “Whatever way you look at it, it’s misleading people, whether they are in the Middle East or in this country,” said the father-of-three. “This could all lead to disappointment, it could lead to anger, it could lead to anything and it’s of concern and disruption to this community.”
Mr Hyde said he had seen convoys of Middle Eastern-looking men arriving to scope out new purchases only to find Article 4 notices posted by Wycombe District Council. These notices, posted on Friday, are used by local authorities to remove the statutory rights that a land owner would normally have, such as fencing their plots.
In addition, a notice by WDC posted at the field entrance warns prospective buyers that: “WARNING - This land is not considered appropriate for residential development.” WDC previously stated it has identified enough housing sites in Marlow until 2026 and that none involve greenbelt intrusion. This means investors are forking out for an area which has almost zero chance of being developed in the next 15 years at least.
Despite this, some residents have grown concerned about the flutter of activity around the site. Some fear some kind of development might still spring up on the site, which is listed as an Area of Attractive Landscape.
Catherine Spalton, a spokesman for WDC said: “We are aware that this land is being offered for sale in plots and we have been working closely with local residents to display notices warning prospective buyers that we do not anticipate having to release this land for development.”
When asked about the King’s Estate, GRE Portfolios said it was marketing the site on behalf of an offshore firm named Taylor Knight. They did not comment on the King’s Estate development or how many people had purchased a plot and said the ‘Saudi-based owners’ would be contacted. The King’s Estate listing disappeared from its website on Monday afternoon.
A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE FORTY GREEN PRESERVATION SOCIETY
Following a spate of similar cases in the county a further attempt to subdivide part of the Green Belt into individual plots has recently appeared in Marlow.
Land at Daisy Lee Farm, Spinfield Lane, Marlow has been in the Green Belt for over 20 years as well as being designated an ‘Area of Attractive Landscape’ adjoining the Chilterns AONB. It is sited on high ground and any development has always been resisted in order to retain its open aspect.
Within the past year part of the farm, approximately 25 acres of open fields, has been sold off and is now being marketed by GRE Portfolios Limited, predominately in Saudi Arabia, as 147 small plots in an grandly named ‘King’s Estate, Marlow’ at prices from £35,000. The plots are offered as ”very important strategic land with an exciting future” through their Saudi Arabian company, GRC. Any diligent solicitor acting on behalf of a prospective buyer would quickly consult the local Planning Authority, Wycombe District Council, and discover that the land is GREEN BELT, an ‘Area of Attractive Landscape’, designated for agricultural use and likely to remain so for the foreseeable future. The only road access is through the residential cul-de-sac Forty Green Drive off Spinfield Lane itself a ’Single Track Road with Passing Places’.
Initially concern was expressed by residents when formal notices appeared around the field on 6 August. However these were Article 4 Directions by Wycombe District Council (WDC) as in press notices and serve to remove some of the statutory rights that the owner or any subsequent purchaser or owner would normally have, such as to fence the plots. In addition a notice by WDC was earlier posted at the field entrance warning prospective purchasers that “This Land is Not considered appropriate for Residential Development”.
In their Core Strategy Examination Statement, Wycombe District Council states that it has already identified enough sites for housing in Marlow for the period up to at least 2026 and claims that “all of these sites are within the town and would not involve incursions into the Green Belt“. The WDC website warns against the marketing of plots of land in the Green Belt and open countryside in several areas in the Wycombe District. “The plots are promoted as an investment opportunity with the suggestion that planning permission for housing development will be available at some time in the future”!
The Land Registry and the Department for Communities and Local Government have respectively issued statements that “many investors have handed over thousands of pounds for land that has little or no chance of being developed” and “The subdivision and sale of small plots of agricultural land is a matter of widespread public concern”. Even the estate agents who acted for the vendor of the land in the first place stated that there was little prospect of “any increase in value of the land because of residential planning permission within the next 25 years”. Wasn’t there a clue in that statement?
So how do we stop this type of scheme, prevent people wasting their money and how do we protect communities from such worrying actions?
Residents in the area are anxious to prevent any change of use of the land and to safeguard its Green Belt status. They do not want the suggested subdivision of these fields and regret the marketing methods being used.
Michael Hyde FGPS Chairman, 9 August 2010