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Wickford town centre revamp moves a step closer
3:30pm Monday 23rd September 2013 in Echo News
LONG-AWAITED improvements to Wickford could start soon after a council awarded contracts to design a new town centre.
Basildon Council’s councillor responsible for regeneration, Malcolm Buckley, told the Echo a firm has been selected to demolish and revamp the town’s public toilets, with work to start in the coming weeks.
On top of that, Essex County Council has been awarded a contract for its consultancy team to draw up designs for an improved town centre, focusing on the High Street and market.
Normally, the authority would put both contracts out to tender, inviting companies to come back with proposals which officers would then choose between, but it has decided to bypass that in order to get things moving quicker.
The contract awarded to the county council’s Place Services will cost between £50,000 and £100,000.
Mr Buckley, who represents Wickford Castledon, said: “We have had a number of tenders for the toilets job, and we have decided to move forward with a particular contractor, and work is likely to start in the coming weeks.
“The toilet design we are bringing forward will be modern, but also keeping with the architecture of Market Road and other nearby streets.
“Wehave toplan things out and we don’t want to do a project haphazardly, to make sure we get it right. Fees for the design work were all budgeted for.”
The council insists it is rushing through the tender exercise because improvements to Wickford are a priority.
Knocking down the toilets will cost about £110,000, with that project and the consultancy fees being paid for by £500,000 that was set aside for the town from this year’s budget.
Campaigners Wickford Action Group have criticised the thousands of pounds outlaid on a design brief before any money is spent on the town.
David Harrison, vice-chairman of the group, said: “I would be interested to see the specifications of what is proposed to make sure we get value for money.
“I am a bit concerned about paying a consultant a tidy sum to look into market improvements – does that mean they are looking at moving it into the High Street?
“Theyhave only just brought in new owners who look prepared to put a bit of money into the market, so is that just a sop on Basildon Council’s behalf?"
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