AN INDEPENDENT auditor will be appointed to examine a number of controversial issues relating to the borough council’s purchase of the Manydown land, to the west of Basingstoke.

The review could place further pressure on borough bosses, seeking to push forward with development proposals for the next 15 years.

Members of Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council’s audit, governance and accounts committee (AGA) made the decision to appoint an independent auditor on Monday after hearing that greater transparency was needed on the £10million land deal.

The 820-hectare site (pictured) was bought using taxpayers’ money as the site for new housing in 1996. However, after more than 15 years, the land remains undeveloped and thousands of new homes are proposed on other greenfield sites including Pyotts Hill and Basingstoke Golf Club.

There are a total of eight areas of concern that need to be considered by the AGA committee. These include the decision made between 2006 and 2007 “not to actively promote” the land for development and allegations of predetermination against senior Tory councillors, who campaigned to save Manydown from development as part of their election strategy.

Councillor Ian Tilbury, independent, said: “We need someone independent to look at this because, if we don’t, is anyone actually going to believe the findings?”

Conservative committee chairman Cllr John Leek put forward a motion calling on officers to prepare a series of reports answering the eight points, but this was rebuffed by a majority of members, who said an independent governance auditor should be appointed, despite the potential cost to the taxpayer.

Labour councillor Sean Keating put forward a counter-motion asking for an independent auditor to be appointed and for officers to provide that person with necessary factual information. This was supported by a majority on the committee.

The independent auditor will bring an interim report back to the committee at its next meeting on April 2. If this investigation finds the council has acted incorrrectly, the members can make a request to the decision-making Cabinet to make changes to its development proposals.