£7m gamble on our town centre
9:00am Friday 30th August 2013 in News
A LEAKED document has revealed Swindon Council is spending £5m more than it has publicly announced on its major town centre regeneration project.
The authority has already forked out £15m on building new car parks as part of the £350m Kimmerfields business scheme.
A whistleblower, who sent the document to the Adver, has exposed the fact the council has agreed to spend £5.4m more than previously thought in what the Labour group has deemed is a ‘gamble with tax payers’ money’.
And developers MUSE have asked for a trigger point to be worked into the contract whereby if the scheme does not achieve its pre-lets of over 100,000 square feet of offices by March 2018, then the construction company can withdraw from the application – leaving the council with around £1.5m extra in costs.
The paper, titled Kimmerfields – Future Investment and Financial Implications, shows at best the council will be spending an additional £5m on start up costs and at worse, if MUSE pulls out, nearly £7m.
Councillors agreed at a meeting in June, when the press and public were excluded, the millions of pounds in capital expenditure should be spent on securing land for the project and for the construction of the new bus station.
Garry Perkins, cabinet member for economy, regeneration and culture, defended the council’s decision to keep the figures hidden from the public.
“This report was confidential due to the commercially sensitive information contained within it and was reviewed and accepted by a cross-party scrutiny committee,” said Coun Perkins.
“Every council has to work with the private sector.
“The leaking of this report is highly irresponsible and could undermine any future potential private partnerships, marking Swindon down as a place not to do business.”
Leader of the Labour group Jim Grant said this latest revelation highlighted the Conservatives’ cavalier approach to Swindon Council’s cashpot.
“This is an example of a gamble that the Tories are taking with the tax payers’ money,” said Coun Grant.
“Similarly to the Wichelstowe project they are taking a cavalier approach towards Swindon’s tax payers.”
He said Swindon could be left with a new £22m car park with no guarantee of making the money back.
Kimmerfields includes plans for 650,000 sq ft of offices, 150,000 sq ft of ancillary retail, 450 residential units, a new bus station, hotel and public square, and regrading of Fleming Way.
The office accommodation is being marketed at £20 per sq ft, with a national marketing launch expected in the summer.
Construction work is nearing completion on the £25m first phase of the project which is on the site of the old police station.
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