‘Kept in the dark’ on Brentwood development
Brentwood Council has been accused of secrecy over a major development in the town centre by opposition councillors.
They raised questions about the future of the project in William Hunter Way that will include a cinema, retail units and housing on the car park.
An emergency extraordinary meeting at the town hall on Monday discussed the plans. It saw opposition members calling for more transparency.
The meeting was called after Labour group leader Mike Le-Surf and Lib Dem group leader David Kendall – both on the cross-party working group for William Hunter Way – wanted to debate the development. They have accused the council of failing to give information about details of the project.
Plans were agreed in 2007 and since then no work has started. Developer Stockland has struggled to find businesses to take up leases for units – a condition of the agreement with Brentwood Council before it can be finalised.
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Cllr Le-Surf said: “We have been kept in the dark about what’s going on, and we are meant to be on the cross-party working group for it, but that hasn’t met for six years. There has been a lack of information.”
He said he has only seen details via leaked sources and believed that the deal will expire next Friday, leaving Brentwood free to find another developer.
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The council said the date has been amended by a ‘supplemental agreement’ and an amended year-long extension of the deal was approved at a council meeting in October 2011.
A council spokesman said: “The inclusion of a default extra year based on conditions not having been met has been in place since the agreement was originally signed.”
Cllr Kendall argued: “Why has this not been explained to members before now and why did it not come back to members for discussion and a formal decision?”
Cllr Le Surf added: “The council’s latest U-turn had to be forced upon them and we still haven’t seen all the documents that we have asked for. Brentwood citizens deserve much better than this secretive shower.”
A council spokesman said: “Members are shown as much information as we are able to reveal.” He added the head of planning wrote on Wednesday to all members to say any wishing to see documentation about these agreements are welcome to do so.
“Obligations on us about commercial confidentiality mean that the council cannot share all information whilst we are in the middle of these negotiations with the developer,” said the spokesman.