Council defends decision to strike sole cinema deal

January 14, 2009 12:14 PM
By Brentwood Gazette reporter in http://www.thisistotalessex.co.uk
Linda Price, candidate for the Hutton South by-election

Linda Price: "Why did these plans not go out for further consultation?"

THE decision to invite only one developer to build a massive cinema and shopping complex in Brentwood has been defended by the council.

Brentwood Borough Council has also stood by its decision not to hold a borough-wide consultation on plans for the six-screen venue, new shops and 14 one-bedroom flats in the centre of town.

Stockland Halladale was the only company invited to develop the area in William Hunter Way.

And council leader Cllr Brandon Lewis said the close ties built between Stockland Halladale and the council from when it developed the Baytree Centre made them first choice.

He also said the company could uniquely connect the high street with the William Hunter Way development because it owns Rosebys and Krisp which will be demolished to make way for a pedestrian link.

Cllr Lewis said: "We couldn't just go ahead and make that decision, this had to go to the district auditor who said we were quite right in taking that company and no-one else."

However, Linda Price, a former Lib Dem candidate in the borough elections, said: "Any sensible householder who undertakes any work is advised to get three separate quotes.

"I think this should go out for further investigation and get more developers to come in to offer plans for alternatives.

"It just appears to me, from a layman's point of view, that those plans are not tailor-made for Brentwood."

Debating the issue at a Citizens Panel held at the Town Hall last week, Linda said she also wants to know why the plans did not go out for a borough-wide consultation.

She said: "It affects everyone in the borough. If I was asked the question 'would you like a cinema back in Brentwood?' the answer would be yes, but not on the size and scale that is now being offered.

"I don't think the right questions were asked and I think they should be."

Phil Mynott, of Swan Paddocks Residents Association, is also concerned that the remit for a stakeholder meeting due for January 29 in the council chamber will be very narrow.

Residents have been told they will only be able to ask about details of the planning application - not about any concerns relating to how the plans were decided upon or why there was no consultation.

He said: "I think the council needs to be aware that if you ask people to turn up on January 29, there will be a lot of people looking to ask those sort of questions.

"People of Brentwood are aware of the fact that they haven't really been asked about this."

Cllr Lewis added: "This proposal has been one of the most widely publicised schemes. I'm not sure we could have done much more."