Town centre regeneration's legal deal ‘delay’By Vicky Smith
July 04, 2012
The legal agreement for Wokingham’s long-awaited town centre regeneration has still yet to be signed two months after it was promised – but leading figures behind the project have urged people to keep the faith.
Key members behind the scheme at Wokingham Borough Council came under fire this week from the former executive member for community regeneration, who labelled the delay in signing the legal agreement a result of “incompetence”.
In a statement issued in mid-April, council officers heading up the project said the legal agreement would be signed later that month.
Yet this week, the paperwork had still to be signed and no date has been given for this, although members of the council’s executive committee gave their approval to the legal agreement with developer Wilson Bowden at a meeting last Thursday.
Matt Deegan, who stood down from his seat in Earley at the elections in May, had promised members of Wokingham Town Centre Forum the legal agreement was ready to go at a meeting in April and stated it would “take an idiot to mess it up now” before his departure.
Mr Deegan said: “We have had over 20 different meetings to gather public opinion.
“I am disappointed for the businesses and residents of Wokingham that the paperwork has not yet been signed.
“There is a real lack of direction, purpose and conviction from the leadership.
“I know from personal experience there are a lot of people who care deeply about the town who must be as frustrated as I am. It saddens me the council is wasting so much time.”
He added: “The number of member briefings on the town where members did not turn up was shocking. People are happy to turn up to regular public council meetings and take their allowance, but some won’t turn up to internal meetings, to make sure they are engaging with debate before decisions are taken, even when it affects the area they have been elected to represent.”
New executive member for regeneration Councillor Alistair Corrie said the legal agreement had not changed since he took over the portfolio in May, stating the delay in signing was due to him wanting to fully understand the paperwork before committing to the deal.
Cllr Corrie said: “I am sorry if people’s expectations are different to where we are at now. For me there hasn’t been a delay as I wasn’t given any other dates relating to signing of the agreement.”
Cllr David Lee, leader of the council, assured residents the legal agreement would be signed soon, although he could not give a date for when this would happen.
He added a planning application for the corner of Rose Street and Market Place refurbishment is due later this month and that further plans for Elms Field and Peach Street are due in September.
An exhibition showcasing the latest town centre plans will be held in a tent on Elms Field in Elms Road on Friday, July 13, and Saturday, July 14.
Architects behind the scheme and members of the council will answer questions and gather opinion.