THE £1billion contract to redevelop Basildon town centre is virtually signed and sealed.

A bidding competition was due to be held between several developers for the huge contract, but the financial downturn has forced all rival groups to pull out.

Basildon Council’s cabinet has now passed a vote paving the way for a single bidder to submit a tender.

This means the only group still interested in the scheme, a partnership between Barratt Homes and Wilson Bowden partnership, has almost certainly secured the whopping contract to build around 3,500 homes, offices, a new theatre in place of the Towngate, and a new council headquarters in place of the Basildon Centre.

Malcolm Buckley, Basildon Council cabinet member, said: “They will now go off and draw up more detailed plans for the masterplan.

“They will set out a detailed timetable for the various stages of work, for example when they propose to finish building the homes.”

However Lynda Gordon, Labour opposition leader on Basildon Council, again expressed concern the council could be held to ransom over the terms of the masterplan contract, if it is only dealing with one bidder.

She said: “It would obviously be much more desirable to have at least two bidders as there is a worry the council could be held to ransom if there is only one left interested.

“The council seems determined to press ahead with this because it doesn’t want to lose face, but I certainly have concerns.”