BILLION-POUND plans to regenerate Basildon town centre have been slammed by opposition councillors who say it ‘lacks vision’.

Nigel Smith, leader of the town’s Labour Party, said he is disappointed with the Basildon Town Centre Masterplan which was rubber-stamped by the Tory administration a year ago.

Last December, Basildon Council agreed the blueprint which aims to improve the town centre by encouraging more restaurants and shops to open in the town centre.

Over the last 12 months, plans to move the market to St Martin’s Square have been brought forward and South Essex College has been given permission to build a new campus on the site of the old market in Market Square.

The next stage of building, in Acacia Park, to ultimately bring 244 homes and a boulevard link between Gloucester Park and the town centre, has also begun.

But Mr Smith said: “Frankly, I’m disappointed if that’s what regeneration of the town centre means.

“Why would you want to spoil St Martin’s Square, which is a lovely area, with a hotchpotch market?

“And I’m not sure the current market site is the right location for the college.

“If that is what the regeneration stands at so far then that is disappointing. I’m not optimistic for the future as I think this lacks vision.

“I don’t know if people were consulted on these plans, but the council needs to talk to them.”

Mr Smith added that he felt a better location for the college, which is due to be built in 2015, would have been in Great Oaks or even where Acacia Park is now inGloucester Park. The £1billion plans are being financed by Barratt Wilson Bowden, and the Tory administration insists that the scheme will not cost the taxpayer anything.

Mr Smith, who represents Lee Chapel North, accused the authority of being at the mercy of developers.

He said: “We couldn’t have an improvement of Pitsea without a dirty big supermarket instead of a swimming pool, yet nothing is happening at the Laindon Centre  because no one can make a profit out of it. The council needs to assert itself.”

Phil Rackley, who is the leader of the independent Basildon Labour group, has the town centre in his St Martin’s Ward.

He said: “I think moving the market into the town centre will be to the detriment of the town centre as it’s a lovely open space.

“I think moving the college to the town centre is deeply flawed too as there is no parking. And this is for a college that is going to have hundreds of pupils.

“This Tory administration has been in charge for ten years, but there has not been much regeneration going on.”