Mon, 07 Jan 2019
MORE than £5.6m has been spent on achieving West Berkshire Council’s aim of regenerating Newbury’s London Road Industrial Estate (LRIE).
The full amount – £5,665,181.08 – was revealed at a meeting of the council’s executive committee on Thursday, December 20.
The bulk of it, £5,141,824, went on purchasing land and delivering a link road from the A339 into the estate.
The council said most of this funding came from government grants, developer money and a significant contribution from the Thames Valley Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).
However, it has now become apparent that, at the very least, £523,000 of West Berkshire taxpayer’s money has been thrown at the scheme to date.
It has emerged that £109,000 was spent on securing St Modwen as a development partner and entering into an agreement that has since been ruled unlawful. On top of this, the local authority has spent a further £50,811.42 on ‘other expert costs’.
As previously reported, the council also shelled out £363.545.66 on defending itself against legal challenges in the High Court and Court of Appeal – the latter of which it lost.
Despite all this, senior councillors have rejected calls for an independent inquiry into the decision, saying it would be a waste of time and money.
It has, however, now requested an internal review from its Overview and Scrutiny Commission (OSMC) on the decision to enter into the agreement.
At the December meeting, Lee McDougall submitted a question asking the council how much it had spent.
After revealing the amount, the council’s portfolio holder for corporate services Dominic Boeck said: “The A339 widening and creation of the road into LRIE, this is funding that has been provided by the LEP, Section 106 money and Department for Transport Challenge funding, so this is not all West Berkshire Council’s funds, but community funds if you like.
“The vast bulk of these costs, of course, you can see are related to the delivery of the new access into the estate.
“That access has been delivered and is already bringing benefits to residents and businesses in the town.
“Other work done previously will also still be relevant as the council moves forward with the regeneration of the London Road Industrial Estate.
“These are therefore not by any means wasted costs.”
In response, Lee McDougall, said: “Do you not think it was slightly deceptive to declare a figure of £363,000, when it was really it was over £5m?”
Mr Boeck responded: “I don’t think there was any deception whatsoever. The figure we quoted [£363,545.66] was in respect of the legal costs.
“That was the question that was asked and that was the answer.”