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Just 122 comments on £1bn town revamp
10:00am Thursday 14th June 2012 in Echo News
A HUGE exercise to get public views on plans to give Basildon town centre a £1billion makeover saw just 122 responses.
Basildon Council and its contractor, Barratt Wilson Bowden, spent six weeks from February trying to get the public involved in the grandiose plans for the town, with a series of exhibitions and workshops.
The plans involve major redevelopment over eight areas and would include a new cinema, town centre college campus, street market, up to 2,000 homes and a new bus station.
However, a report to the council’s environmental scrutiny committee – to be discussed tomorrow – found that despite more than 1,000 feedback forms being handed out, only 122 were filled in and returned.
The council says more than 6,000 people “engaged” with the process by taking part in consultations or visiting websites, but opposition councillors fear the lack of response is because the public feels this is a done deal.
Geoff Williams, Basildon Lib Dem group leader, said: “A lack of response can play into the council’s hands because they will use the argument that few objected.
“Some of the plans, like moving the fire and ambulance stations, appear to be pie in the sky and maybe people just think they will never happen.”
Basildon Council says the majority of people who responded were in favour of the plans, but concerns were raised over the moving of Basildon College from Nethermayne to the town centre as well as moving the market, bus station, post office and services such as the fire and ambulance stations.
Council leader Tony Ball said people usually voiced an opinion if they were opposed to something.
He added: “Many thousands of people had the opportunity to respond, and out of that 122 did.
“Some comments were made which are quite easy to address. It was not a ringing endorsement, but the whole point was to make sure we have not done anything deranged.”
A council spokesman said: “We are pleased such a large number of people engaged with the town centre masterplan consultation.
“Key issues, such as developing a new cinema and restaurants, relocating the market and building a new town centre college campus, have been regularly aired through the consultation events and promotion in the local press.
“While we would have liked to receive more than 122 formal responses, the overwhelming message we got informally is support for the principle of redeveloping Basildon town centre and to get on with making it happen.
“We intend to continue doing this.”