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Kingston Council 'backed wrong horse' over Raven's Ait leasehold sale
The leader of Kingston and Surbiton Conservatives has branded Kingston Council "inept" over the controversial sale of the Raven's Ait leasehold to a Middle East-based businessman.
Councillor Howard Jones said the council had "backed the wrong horse" when it gave a 50-year lease to Olympic sailing medalist Ossie Stewart's company Stewart Marine in 2010 - despite reportedly being offered £3m for the iconic island.
It is understood Mr Stewart has sold his company, and therefore the lease, to Marshal Gaspar, an Indian national living in the United Arab Emirates, for £1.9m.
Coun Jones' party had opposed the council's sale of the lease to Mr Stewart in 2010, and this week he said: “I recall we were very surprised at the rushed decision to sell the lease to Stewart Marine.
“The council was being pushed commercially because it was having to pay for security on the island after the squatters [in 2009]."
The future of Raven's Ait is now in question
He added: “It certainly didn’t go to the highest bidder, it wasn’t the most interesting use of the island, there was no public engagement and no proper bidding process.
“It seems the council was wedded to the idea that Stewart Marine, because it was local, was the best bet.
“It has backed the wrong horse from the looks of it, and have again shown its ineptitude when it comes to making business deals.”
But Lib Dem councillor Barry O’Mahony, who supported leasing the island to Stewart Marine, said: “I stand by my original decision that was made at the time.
“We thought it was for the best for the future of the island.
“I would be very disappointed if we have struck a deal that has allowed him to walk away with a profit, but I’m still hoping it is not that clear cut.”
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