Basildon Council has purchased a shopping area in its town centre for £18.5 million, with the leader of the authority planning on a huge arena for events.

The council has taken over ownership of the Westgate Shopping Centre, off Fodderwick, Basildon. Gavin Callaghan [pictured inset], Labour leader of the council is also planning a masterplan for the town centre and insists his arena plan “economically will work.”

He said: “We were given the opportunity to buy the centre and we said yes because regeneration is a number one priority for us, we’ve got to get Basildon back on its feet.

“Being in a position to own the centre means we can control what happens to it and what goes there. We now own Westgate Shopping Centre, The Towngate Theatre and The Basildon Centre, the council has not owned this amount of land in the town centre since 1947.

We’ve been talking about the South Essex Arena, economic studies we’ve commissioned show there is a need for a space like this with between 2,000 and 5,000 seats to get bigger and better shows. 

“People travel to Southend for shows at the Cliffs Pavilion and Chelmsford for shows at the ice rink so we know people do move around for leisure events and activities.  Our economic study shows there’s a need for this sort of thing and between now and Christmas we will be coming up with a masterplan to submit before March next year.

“It’s incredibly exciting for the town centre and Basildon can be known as a place where lots of exciting things are going on in the town centre.” He said the town can rival other parts of south Essex and East London and draw in more people and investment.

The council boss also said the town centre needs a hotel which will be part of his master plan along with some new homes.  It’s part of a brand new look for Basildon Town Council after the £25 million East Square development with a new cinema and a number of eateries.

There are also plans for major homes developments in the town centre, with plans agreed for 245 homes at the former Great Oaks Retail Park, off Great Oaks, Basildon. Other major developments include four tower blocks with 495 homes at the site of the former Marks and Spencer store, near St Martin’s Square in Basildon.