On Monday 19th May, 2014 Gloucestershire County Council reviewed the purchase bids for the sale of the Wilderness that were submitted on 16th May. The Conservative run cabinet had a choice to make - they could either choose the offer with the “best value” to the community or they could choose the offer with the “highest price”.
A partnership bid was submitted by businessman Mr. Neill Ricketts with the Wilderness Project community interest company. This win-win bid not only exceeds the sum that The Wilderness Project would have been expected to pay, but would also have created an extensive series of social, economic and educational benefits by developing the residential environmental education centre into a modern facility.
This partnership bid offered a ‘best value’ option that, over the years, would have paid dividends time and time again. However, the Board of The Wilderness Project have been informed that yesterday the cabinet chose to reject this proposal in favour of a higher priced bid.
If this decision is allowed to stand, the Wilderness Centre will be lost to the community for ever.
For nearly three years the Conservative run council have placed hurdles in the way of community ownership. It is ironic that at this eleventh hour a sound economic solution, with a private purchaser, has been placed before the council and they still refuse to cooperate. What does this say for the council’s true attitude towards empowering the community to run valued services.
This disastrous decision to sell to the highest cash bidder was made by local politicians, only local politicians can now reverse matters. The full council has days in which to re-think this decision. The community has done all it can to restore the highly valued environmental education service; will our elected representatives now step up and save the Wilderness?