HAS AN ATTACK OF BLIGHT HIT BLIGHTWELLS?
What was that sound we heard from ‘Your Waverley’s Overview & Scrutiny Committee?
A development rumoured to have now lost its “flagship tenant” M&S Foods.
A toxic development supported by Waverley Borough Council and Surrey County Council with squillions of – OUR MONEY!
Cllr Merryweather, a newly elected Lib Dem, and an accountant by profession, had obviously been burning the midnight oil for months delving into the underbelly of the finances of a development opposed by many thousands of Farnham residents. A scheme which was subject of a Judicial Review, saw the demolition of the treasured Redgrave theatre, the loss of the beloved Marlborough Head Pub, The Gostrey Old People’s Centre, open spaces and much more and which has brought traffic chaos to the beleaguered town. It has been a running sore for over 20 years.
Cllr Merryweather calmly fired one salvo after another into the hushed meeting – whilst finance officers gaped like Nemo at the revelations that the development would not, as had been predicted by the Tory administration, produce a £900,000 a year bonus for the council, but a possible, £415,000 or less.
He said the last financial appraisal was in 2016. But now he would update them on the base-case numbers, reeling off a stream of figures in quick-fire succession.
Perhaps we should say here, we are not Accountants – just your average Jo public – listening to a small room stuffed with people, without the benefit to seeing the screen, the following can be confirmed by the clip of the meeting below.
- By the time Brightwells – (only WW and residents call it”Blightwells) is completed, both now and in future years; the scheme will owe the General Fund £4.5m and cash of £3.1m . and would have non-recurring revenue of £400,000. The payback time for the former is 2031/32 and the latter 2028/29.
- WBC had contributed £400,000 worth of property into the development – which had included the tennis club; The Gostrey Centre and more. It had received £800,00 towards the Memorial Hall, now a dual-use venue. What was the true cost of this development asks the WW?
- In 2 years time, ‘Your Waverley’ is committed to a £500,000/£650,000 bill for resurfacing the Sainsburys’ Car Park. Which is “unfunded,” and would have to come from the General Fund and if borrowed – over 50 years, would cost the council – £25,000 per year.
- MM said The ‘Jury was our’ in the prospect of the development producing 450 jobs.
- The Dogflud Car Park – had received £514,000 in compensation from the from developer Crest Nicholson. But the costs to the council would be equivalent.
- It was predicted that the South Street car park would have to close, resulting in a large loss of revenue from Farnham Leisure Centre, a centre already suffering due to the lack of car parking.
- Waverley had agreed to maintain in perpetuity the whole Brightwells Yard site. A maintenance contract which would, most likely, have to be undertaken by private contractors at an estimated cost of – wait for it – £50,000 p.a.
Surely not for the 50-year life of the project?!?
But it gets worse:
Waverley received £300,000 from SCC to off-set its car parking charges. However, WBC agreed to pay SCC £50,000 per year for the next 150 years of the contract.
An item which was – LISTED BY THE TORY ADMINISTRATION AS INCOME! SURELY NOT – IT CANNOT BE TRUE – CAN IT?
- The capital received from Surrey County Council over 3 years of £2.7m to be used for improvements to leisure centres in Farnham, Haslemere and Godalming.
Ominous or what? Not a single mention of the £14m which the Tories announced weeks before the May elections to fund a spiffing new Leisure Centre for Cranleigh and the eastern villages?
To a hushed audience, one of whom was the former council leader – was she hiding – because the WW could only see something resembling steam coming from the corner where Julia Potts cowered; he continued saying nobody needed any reminders about the dismal state of the retail sector!
“We all live in the same world and know what the High Steet environment is like. So – will we hit the commercial rent base? We predict, certainly not in the first 2 years.”
By the time, Cllr Merryweather began talking about possible lets of the residential properties everyone looked punchdrunk, and the atmosphere in the room was anything but merry Cllr Merryweather!
As for the debate – a deafening silence fell over Committee Room. Even Cllr Hyman a long opponent of the scheme said he needed time to digest the presentation, before commenting. Rendered Speechless? Cllr Hyman – never?
In fairness to the Tory Group, and Cllr Potts, in particular, wasn’t it Former Leader Robert ~Know-less and Portfolio Holder Adam Taylor-Smith Knowless who masterminded the project? The latter who regularly flagellates the new coalition administration every morning when he gets on the train?
However, councillors, in general, are laymen/women – did they read their papers? –
But, the Waverley Web asks? What part did the council’s financial experts – the plumply salaried Chief Executive and Financial officers like Graham Clarke- play in this possible fiscal fiasco. Answers please on a postcard to email@example.com
WW asks? Should there be an independent inquiry?
You can listen to the meeting here- but it comes with a health warning. Pour yourself a good measure of gin and tonic/whisky or wine first. You may need it.