THE Laindon Centre is close to being sold off to a developer, it has been revealed.
BDO has published a progress report on its administration of the centre, which reveals talks with a potential developer are “well progressed”.
It is the first real glimmer of hope for traders in the dilapidated Sixties shopping centre since BDO was appointed after Laindon Regeneration, the owner of the shopping centre, became insolvent last May.
The report by BDO said: “The joint administrators, who have reviewed the options available, are currently in advanced talks with a potential purchaser.
“Details are confidential due to the commercial sensitivity of this matter.”
It comes after BDO hired Bride Hall Group to conduct a feasibility study into the future of the shopping centre, to review options for potential redevelopment.
Meanwhile, fed-up traders have been waiting 18 years for a developer to improve the complex following a number of failed attempts by previous owners.
Roy Hudson, who owns off licence Pints & Litres in the centre, is sceptical.
He said: ”I hope this is good news, because business is bad here and we have six empty shops.
“We haven’t heard anything from the administrators, so there should be much better communication. I have virtually given up.”
Meanwhile, opposition councillors believe Laindon is being left behind while major regeneration plans in Wickford and Pitsea move forward.
Mark Ellis, one of two Ukip members sitting on the cabinet, and ward councillor for Laindon Park, said: “How can we justify spending even more money in Basildon town centre and leave the Laindon Centre to rot? It is beyond me.
“How do you think the people of Laindon are going to feel if we spend even more money on Basildon and nothing on them?”
Phil Turner, Tory council leader, remains unconvinced the redevelopment will happen – and accused BDO of stonewalling the council.
When he took over as leader in May, he said regenerating Laindon and Wickford were a priority, but now believes the future of the Laindon Centre is out of his hands. He claims the administrators are refusing to talk with him and council officers, leaving the council in limbo.
He said: “It doesn't matter how much we try, the administrators won’t talk to us. We have approached them and they have told us to leave them alone.
“We would really love to do something. We would take Laindon and develop it tomorrow if we were able to.
“The worst thing we could do is use compulsory purchase orders. The administrators would be rubbing their hands.”