A REBEL city councillor who bought a key piece of land earmarked for regeneration without “any profit motive” has been trying to sell it to the council for more than £2 million – well above what he paid for it.

The figure was revealed in emails between Liberal Democrat councillor Kim Gottlieb and Winchester City Council, seen by the Hampshire Chronicle.

However, Cllr Gottlieb says he still stands to lose out financially. He said: “The price tentatively agreed with the council is much lower and, even if it is concluded, I will still be left with a six-figure shortfall as a result of my Silver Hill campaign.”

As previously reported, Cllr Gottlieb was instrumental in a legal move which scuppered the original Conservative-led Silver Hill scheme. He formed the ‘Winchester Deserves Better’ campaign with his Winchester-born wife Nicky in June 2014 and it rapidly gathered momentum among residents. Their concern was that the scale, nature and poor design of the proposal promoted by the council would ruin the historic character of the city and devastate the High Street.

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Cllr Gottlieb then bought the St Clements GP surgery in September 2017 – when he was serving as a Conservative – for £1.65m, according to a well-placed source.

Speaking in 2017, Cllr Gottlieb said: “I have not done this for any profit motive and, in due course, the purchase will be completed in the name of a new civic amenity trust.”

No civic amenity trust has been set up. Cllr Gottlieb said: “I did investigate setting up a trust but found it very difficult to fund, as I had to retain the financial liability myself. I was content to do this as I always assumed that the property would find its way back to the council.”

Now, new emails have come to light showing agents acting on behalf of Cllr Gottlieb trying to sell the surgery to the city council for between £2m and £3m, the most recent figure seen by the Chronicle being £2.25m. The new figure referred to by Cllr Gottlieb is not known.

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The St Clements site forms a key part of the Central Winchester Regeneration (CWR) project, also known as Silver Hill 2, with the city council hoping to move the doctors to a new base in Upper Brook Street. In an email dated December 3 2018, James Clay, director at property consultants London Clancy, wrote: “We set the value of our clients [sic] interest in the region of £3m by virtue of the SPD [supplementary planning document for the CWR project], the site could be redeveloped in isolation to provide a four-storey building of up to 20,000 sq ft in size.

“In addition, its central position makes it pivotal to the broader site.”

Following an offer of £1.8 million from the city council last month, to which Mr Clay responded: “I have taken instructions from my client, Tanner Street Ltd [Cllr Gottlieb is the sole director of Tanner Street Ltd, according to Companies House]... They would consider an offer from Winchester City Council starting with a “2”, namely £2.25 million for St Clements Surgery, subject to contract only and on the basis of a speedy transaction.”

Cllr Gottlieb told the Chronicle: “If and when any transaction is completed, the full details of it will of course need to be disclosed.” It is understood the council tried to buy the site in 2016, but were outbid by Cllr Gottlieb.

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He added: “I don’t know which gutless, anonymous lowlife fed this story to the Chronicle – I can probably guess – but the figures quoted are all quite wrong.

“When I bought the surgery in 2017 it had already been put on the open market, because the then owners had given up trying to deal with the council and Henderson [who partnered with the city council on the original Silver Hill project and are now known as THRE].

“I was particularly concerned by the prospect of the Henderson scheme being resuscitated – it seemed very possible because the 2009 planning permission was being kept artificially alive.

“Additionally, I wanted to ensure that the practice wasn’t evicted before a new surgery was built. If Henderson had been able to proceed with the scheme approved in December 2014, the practice would have been moved out before the end of 2015.

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"These two issues have now been addressed and negotiations in respect of the new surgery continue.

“A third reason is that I wanted to preserve the chance to build a civic-minded development which will bring economic, cultural and social benefits to the whole city – the extraordinary opportunity the site presents would have been stymied had it been acquired by someone outside of the council ‘family’.

“I recently issued an exclusive invitation to the council to acquire the site and I accepted the single offer put in writing. The offer is significantly below the site’s real market value, but I am happy to accept it because the site is critical to the regeneration of the locality, which I have long supported.

"As the project progresses, rather than having to defend spurious allegations, I very much look forward to contributing to the more important task of ensuring that the city centre’s regeneration is successfully achieved.”

Winchester City Council declined to comment. Cabinet was due to consider a land transaction last Wednesday according a council agenda, but the details of what piece of land that relates to have not been made public.