Legal minefield stalls training centre sale...

COUNCIL plans to sell a building valued at nearly £5 million have been put on hold - at least for the time being.

There has been huge opposition to the proposal to market Heath Training Centre, in Free School Lane, Halifax, partly because of the considerable number of individuals and users groups which will have to be rehoused.

The sale was agreed by Calderdale Council before Christmas and at the time it was directly linked to plans for building a replacement for Halifax Central Library.

At a public meeting last week, councillors got a feeling for the wealth of opposition to the sale and have now decided to back off.

Liberal Democrat leader Janet Battye said: “Cabinet recognised that there were possible legal issues surrounding the Heath site, and it is now clear that these are extensive and will take many months to clear up.”

She said she wanted to reassure users and residents that there are to be no hasty decisions taken about the future of the Heath Training and DevelopmentCcentre and in addition the future of the building is not linked to the future of Halifax Central Library.

“Neither do plans for the new library depend on the sale of Heath going ahead.

“Even if the building is eventually disposed of, any funds raised would need to be used in a way that is consistent with the aims of the Heath Trust,” said Coun Battye.

Children’s services spokeswoman Coun Megan Swift (Lab, Town) said: “For the first time in twelve years, we want to make sure that the Heath Trust is properly and separately administered, so there is complete transparency and separation between the charity and the council.

“This will include investigating whether it is possible to appoint an independent Trustee for Heath.”

At the moment all the Heath trustees are council cabinet members.

It has been argued that they face a conflict of interest - both supporting the trust and trying to close it down.

“There will be discussions on all possible uses of the Heath with a view to establishing whether the trust is viable and whether it makes sense for the council to continue to use it for office space, training and other purposes,” said Coun Swift.

Stephen Gow, former Lib Dem councillor for Skircoat ward, said: “Local residents were not happy with this proposal. Heath is very dear to many people in Halifax and I am glad the council has listened to local people and acted accordingly.”