A DEVELOPER has sold the former Safeway site in Addlestone just weeks after securing planning permission for it, attracting criticism for 'cashing in at the expense of residents'.
Goldcrest Homes, which controversially won consent to build on the former supermarket site in Station Road, is to sell the land for £13m - £4.5m more than it paid for it in 2005.
The move, which comes less than a month after Government minister Hazel Blears overruled Runnymede Council and a planning inspector to grant planning permission for 191 homes at the 2.8 acre site, has angered council leader John Furey.
He said: "Goldcrest is now set to make millions out of this community. This is a typical property developer who doesn't care about the harm he does to a town providing he makes his millions."
Goldcrest, which paid £8.5m for the former supermarket site, applied to Runnymede Council for permission to build seven blocks of flats in November 2006 and was refused on grounds of overdevelopment of the site.
It took the matter to a public inquiry in September 2007 which was decided in the favour of the council and residents.
Cllr Furey believes it 'unlikely' the company planned to sell as soon as planning permission was approved.
He said: "I think they've decided it's a tough climate and flats and apartments aren't the bees' knees anymore. They've crammed 191 flats on to a small site and are worried they won't get the value back. It's far easier for them to sell and run."
The Rev Richard Fox, minister of the King's Church in Marsh Lane, Addlestone, who lives near the site, opposed the development from the outset but is philosophical about the latest turn of events.
He said: "It surprises me that they are selling, but they own the land and can do what they like. Maybe it's an opportunity for something better to come out of it."
Prospective buyers have until May 5 to bid for the site, and estate agent Hartley Beames of Knight Frank, who is marketing the land, says interest is 'strong'.
He said: "The difference in the value of land with and without planning permission is huge. At this stage there is strong interest but with any site you never know. A lot of people will play their cards close to their chest."
Goldcrest Homes said it did not wish to comment on the sale of its land