An inquiry into what went wrong with a £4.8m taxpayer loan to a Leeds hotel project that ended up going bust gets under way on Wednesday.
The loan, issued in March 2013 by local funding body, the LEP, has now been written off, Leeds City Council admitted last week.
Among the questions councillors sitting on a watchdog committee of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority (WYCA) want answered are:
how was the loan decided?
what level of checks were made about the recipient?
and how did Leeds City Council manage the possible conflict of interest arising from its role as both the accountable body for the lender AND an interested party in making the deal happen?
Building work at the site – on Portland Crescent near the Leeds Arena – ground to a halt in March 2015 after the original contractor and its development arm went bust, leaving the Co-op Bank and the local funding body, the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP), as the major creditors.
The part-completed building – which has been exposed to the elements for nearly two and a half years – was destined to be a 206-bed hotel as part of the Hilton franchise.
It was announced earlier today that the site is now going to house 273 premium student apartments by the Select Property Group, who run top-end student housing in several UK cities under the Vita Student brand.
How much of the building (as far as it got) can be salvaged is anyone’s guess, but given the change of use, there’ll have to be a new planning application submitted.
You can see details of the scope of the enquiry in this document drafted for Wednesday’s meeting.
The meeting’s open to the public.