MORE than £20million could be spent by Basildon Council buying up a shopping centre ahead of plans to transform it into an arena, a hotel, or homes.

Basildon Council’s cabinet is set to meet tonight to vote on the acquisition of the Westgate Shopping Centre, in the town centre, and the Echo understands the figure will be in the region of £21.5million.

Basildon Council leader, Gavin Callaghan, refused to confirm a figure due to the financial sensitivity but said a “proposal” will be presented to councillors at the meeting.

The Echo understands a range of options will be presented to councillors including a multi-purpose events arena, hotel, care home or residential space.

Mr Callaghan said: “The council has not made any secret of the fact we have 55 different landowners in the town centre which makes regeneration incredibly difficult and without the council taking a proactive and interventionist stance on key sites, we are at the mercy of London boroughs.

“If the public are keen to have more control and they don’t just want it to be flats and sky-high buildings and no food or beverage spots, you can do down their route and hope or you can do what we are an explore all possibilities.

“The Westgate was purchased in 2014 for £26 million, that is the sort of fee that was kicking around, my argument is making sure that if we are going to engage in these decisions, we get as much value as we can to drive the prices down and get into a position to acquire something.

“We have a long history of being proactive and acquiring buildings.

“After the meeting we will communicate that acquisition and what powers we have.”

He added that no decision has been made and the meeting would give “permission for officers to look at things”.

Tory leader, Andrew Baggott, described the potential acquisition as “concerning”.

“I am concerned that Mr Callaghan has been teeing up the fact ‘finances are dire’ and ‘our administration left the council bankrupt’ but has found £20 million to buy a property,” he said.

“There is no clear plan and they have agreed a significant amount of money.”