Watford Council refuses to say why it bought Wakefield property 167 miles away

Silkwood Business Park, which was built around the turn of the millennium.Silkwood Business Park, which was built around the turn of the millennium.
Silkwood Business Park, which was built around the turn of the millennium.
Mystery surrounds the future of a slice of industrial land in Wakefield, which has been bought by a council from the south of England.

Watford Council purchased a building at Silkwood Business Park in Ossett, 167 miles north of its own territory, in January 2018 but is yet to say why.

The transaction was revealed by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (BIJ) on Monday, who listed property sales and purchases by all councils between 2014 and 2018.

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Watford, in Hertfordshire, is the only local authority outside of Wakefield to have bought property within the district, and one of very few to have purchased a building outside of its own boundaries.

Elected mayor of Watford, Peter TaylorElected mayor of Watford, Peter Taylor
Elected mayor of Watford, Peter Taylor

The BIJ's findings also showed the organisation bought property in Newcastle and Birmingham in 2016 and 2017.

The Liberal Democrat-run authority was asked specifically what its interest in the Silkwood building was, but it did not address this.

It also declined to mention what building it was and what its plans were.

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Instead, in a statement attributed to the town's elected mayor, Peter Taylor, it said: "Our property portfolio is an important part of how we are securing the council’s financial future.

"It is prudent and makes sound financial sense to diversify our property portfolio to achieve long term income growth and, by buying property out of the area, we spread the risk profile of our property assets.

"The acquisition in Wakefield was funded through our own property funds. Over the last ten years, Watford has seen a 70 per cent reduction in our funding from central government.

"To continue investment in the services that matter to our residents, we need to working innovatively to secure new ways of raising income."

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Watford Council also refused to disclose who they had bought the private property from, following a Freedom of Information request by the BIJ.

By contrast, most other councils gave full details of who they had done business with between 2014 and 2018, including Wakefield.

Silkwood, which was built at the turn of the millennium, is home to several large businesses, as well as Ossett Fire Station.