WEST Berkshire Council has insisted it is getting the best value for money by appointing developer St Modwen to carry out the proposed regeneration of the London Road Industrial Estate in Newbury.
The St Modwen scheme is likely to comprise 300 to 400 new homes, a food store and a range of new office and business accommodation, as well as a new access road on to the A339.
But the council’s decision to enter into a contract with St Modwen in 2014 was the subject of a recent legal challenge by rival developer Faraday Developments Limited (FDL).
FDL claimed the council failed to achieve best value for money or follow the correct procurement processes by signing the agreement.
But after a two-day judicial review hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice in July, the case was thrown out, with a High Court judge ruling that the council had “self-evidently sought best value”.
In a defiant response, FDL managing director Duncan Crook said he firmly disagreed with the judgement and intended to appeal it.
Mr Crook said in a press release issued after the court hearing: “Crucially, the judgement concluded that the agreement between the council and St Modwen neither achieves nor does not achieve best value. That test will only be applied if St Modwen decide to buy land and carry out redevelopment.”
James Fredrickson, the councillor responsible for corporate services and external affairs, said: “The High Court reviewed the entire process from the beginning and concluded that the council has always sought best value for money.
“That is why St Modwen were considered the best operator to move forward with the proposed regeneration of the London Road Industrial Estate.
“I’m disappointed Duncan Crook has not listened to the judge’s advice, which was to avoid making unnecessary and inappropriate comments.
“The case has been reviewed fully and has had its day in court.”
In 2009, the council granted outline planning permission to FDL to carry out its own scheme for 300 homes, a hotel and office space, but planning permission lapsed in 2012.
FDL submitted an identical application which the council then refused – but a planning inspector later overturned the council’s decision, ruling it was wrong and that council officers had ‘misled’ councillors into rejecting it.
Then, in 2014, the council signed a development agreement with St Modwen.