Brentwood Borough Council has agreed a massive spending commitment to unshackle the town’s Baytree Centre to create a new shopping mall and multi-screen cinema.

A motion from the Liberal Democrat group on Brentwood Council to delay an agreement to make around £23 million available to develop the high street shopping centre in the face of uncertainty around the UK’s finances failed.

The Tory administration had argued that the decision does not commit the council to drawing down the funds and a further agreement would be needed from council members if any of the parameters setting out the development finances changed anyway.

READ MORE: £23m plan to regenerate Baytree Centre from 'state of paralysis'

The agreement comes after the council spent £10.8 million on purchasing the shopping centre, which has never operated at its maximum potential and has been in a “state of paralysis hindered by the poor selection of dated and unfit for purpose retail units within a scheme which has limited appeal”.

The council says it wants to differentiate Brentwood from other town centre high street locations and will make sure the final tenant mix has a mixture of both national, regional and local operators to “give Brentwood the edge over other locations nearby”.

The investment is part of an even wider commitment for employment regeneration in the borough, with £6 million earmarked to regenerate the Childerditch Industrial Park located in the south of Brentwood near junction 29 of the M25.


Baytree Centre New 2

Baytree Centre New 2


With the property costing £59 million and Academy Place a town centre office block costing £15 million the total commitment in borrowed funds comes to around £100 million.

It is expected that the council will borrow externally from the Public Works Loan Board, however officers will manage the treasury function to maximise the best return for the council and utilise Capital receipts plus short-term borrowing as appropriate.

The council says its plans for the Baytree Centre “enables major a reshaping of Brentwood Town Centre and provides significant improvement to the local residents in terms of amenities and offer.”

READ MORE: Brentwood high streets to benefit from up to £600,000 – if new levy agreed upon

The proposal is to redevelop the site to produce a mix of uses including an Everyman-style cinema, leisure, residential, food and retail combined with an enhanced public realm.

Brentwood Borough Council leader Cllr Chris Hossack said: “There is an element of obligation as far as I’m concerned as a local authority when it comes to their town centre and the sustainability of the town centre.

“What we can’t do is watch the town centre and significant assets, as the Baytree Centre, decline. Because then we as a local authority is overseeing a decline and that is not what we are here to do.”

Lib Dem councillors worried that there was too much certainly over interest rates and inflation currently for a sensible decision to be taken now.

Overall inflation – the rate at which UK prices rise – surged to 10.1 per cent in September and is expected to climb further.

The Bank of England raised interest rates up 0.75 per cent this week to 3 per cent– the highest rate for 14 years.

Cllr Tom McLaren (Cons, South Weald) said: “Any commercial organisation would recognise the fact there is a very long lead time between making a decision to even think about putting a planning application in let alone making those submissions and meeting the objectives of our very robust planning department to actually having to fund the project in its entirety.

“Taking a view now that inflation rates and interest rates have been performing in this way or that way over the past 12 months is fairly immaterial to where we could be by the time we have to fund the project or be concerned about inflation costs.

“With that in mind moving for a deferral is just kicking the can down the road and won’t lead to us to position where we know any more than what we do today.”

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