TAXPAYERS are to foot a £662,000 bill over an abortive plan to hand over Rayleigh’s Mill Hall to developers who planned a smaller eco-friendly venue and dozens of flats.

The Mill Hall arts and events centre has been at the centre of controversy after plans were pitched to flatten the site as part of an “asset delivery programme” by Rochford Council. 

However, the move sparked fury among the community with residents setting up a campaign to save the much-loved building. 

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Finally, in September, Rochford Council agreed to reopen Mill Hall instead of going ahead with the plans.

A recent freedom of information (FOI) request by the Save Mill Hall Campaign group has revealed the council paid the developer – gbpartnerships – £662,000 to release Mill Hall from the contract.

John Payton, chair of the campaign said: “The self-styled “fiscally responsible” Conservative led administration’s gold standard project has delivered nothing to the residents of this district but has cost us all a fortune.

“Who knows just how much more this scheme is going to cost taxpayers?

“Council reserves are being frittered away during a cost-of-living crisis. None of this needed to happen.

“If the council had consulted with the public first, before they signed up to their terrible contract, they would have heard loud and clear – hands off our iconic Mill Hall.”

In response to the FOI, a spokesman for Rochford Council said: “At an extraordinary council meeting on 8th September 2020, it was agreed that the council would enter into a contract with development partner, gbpartnerships, to deliver the Council’s Asset Delivery Programme (ADP).

“The purpose of the ADP is to regenerate the local area and provide facilities for local residents and businesses across the whole of the Rochford as well as much-needed new homes and fit for purpose office accommodation for council staff and our key partners.

The Mill Hall site was a part of that redevelopment programme.

“After extensive consultation and listening to the community, the decision was made last year by the executive to reopen The Mill Hall Arts and Events Centre.

“This cost is the result of taking the site out of our contract with Gbpartnership and reopening the centre. The council will continue working to provide much needed new housing and improved facilities for our residents and businesses.”

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