OPPOSITION councillors claim “the wheels have come off” the Basildon masterplan after it emerged planners are at loggerheads with the developer over its timescale.
Basildon Council spent four years hiring a “development consortium”
to build more than 3,000 new homes, 25,000sq m of office space, and 40,000sq ft of shops and restaurants, in the town centre over the next 20 years.
Barratt Wilson Bowden was hired in late 2010 after its vision of the £1billion redevelopment was approved by councillors.
It is nearing completion of phase one of the masterplan – building hundreds of newhomes in Gloucester Park and the former swimming pool site – which was supposed to fund the second stage, the redevelopment of East Square as a leisure area with new restaurants, bars, shops and a possible cinema.
Instead, the council is preparing plans for East Square with a £600,000 budget.
According to Malcolm Buckley, the former boss of regeneration at Basildon Council, the authority has effectively had to take back control of the project after disagreements with Barratt Wilson Bowden over when town centre redevelopment can take place.
Mr Buckley lost his seat on the borough council in the May elections and is no longer responsible for regeneration in the town, but was instrumental in the council setting aside the £600,000 for East Square.
Mr Buckley said: “Barratt Wilson Bowden said the economic climate was not yet in the position to redevelop East Square and if we had left it to them, it would have been several years before we did East Square or any town centre development.
“The council was of the view it still wanted to progress it.
“What was needed was to get another developer to pick up and run with it, but the developers now want some form of consent as they want certainty.”
Nigel Smith, Basildon Labour group deputy leader, said: “We had the expense of the Commonwealth Club, councillors and officers travelling to Cannes and an endless procurement to get the consortium in place.
“I seem to remember it was the developer that was supposed to finance and deliver the regeneration.
“Now it appears the wheels have come off and the developer is taking a back seat.
“On top of this, the plans are all over the shop, because the £600,000 is now on ice while the council finds out if Infrared, the new owner of the Eastgate Centre, is going to develop a cinema there.”
Leader brushes off the claims THE leader of Basildon Council brushed off claims made by Malcolm Buckley and opposition councillors about the masterplan.
Phil Turner said: “There has been no change to the status of Barratt Wilson Bowden.
“It is still our preferred developer and a party to the master development agreement with the council.
“As we work up proposals for East Square, part of its role is to provide advice in advance of any detailed options.”
A Basildon Council spokesman added: “The council manages and has responsibility for the project with the help of advisers.”
He added although the money to plan developments at East Square came from the council as opposed to Barratt Wilson Bowden, it was from a separate regeneration budget.
This currently has a balance of more than £1million and comes from agreements reached over the development of homes in Gloucester Park by Barratt Wilson Bowden, with more due as that scheme is finished.
Barratt Wilson Bowden did not return calls to the Echo.