I announced last week that we would be bringing the negotiations with Stockland regarding the William Hunter Way development to a close, following their request to remove inflation (RPI) increases relating to the minimum ground rent from the agreement.
We want a cinema for the town. However, I always said that we would only sign the final agreement, if it was in Brentwood’s interests to do so and signing the Borough up to a 150 year lease with no inflationary increase for decades would clearly not be good for our Town.
The negotiations of the last few months have been frustrating, and Stockland have not shown the enthusiasm we need to be confident of seeing this project delivered. Doing the best for Brentwood, isn’t just about the end result, it is also about how we get there.
Much has previously been made by the opposition about us pulling out of the deal earlier, with the Lib Dems even going as far as bizarrely suggesting officers’ advice said that we should be discussing options with other developers and that if we did not, we would be subject to a “hefty legal bill.”
Strange statement to make considering that it was completely contrary to the advice that was given and which they saw, which clearly stated that we were tied in to a contract with Stockland and as such could NOT commence detailed discussions with other developers without risking that hefty legal bill.
I challenged the Lib Dem Leader and Deputy Leader to explain how they could reconcile a factual legal statement about the situation with their claims and the response I received said that the legal advice was an opinion only.
Indeed it is – an opinion which is based on professional view point,
experience and an understanding of contractual law; everything which neither the Lib Dem Leader, their Deputy Leader, nor I, have and the very reason, why we sensibly brought in advice for the multi-million pound project.
However, with no legal background between them, they have seemingly decided that they would have over-ruled this advice and left the Council exposed to costs and litigation of hundreds of thousands or possibly even millions of pounds.
“Doing the best for Brentwood” is what all parties will no doubt purport to do; but arrogantly riding rough-shod over advice that is there to protect the Council and taxpayers’ money, with no basis for doing so is not in Brentwood’s interests.
The Lib Dems have shown themselves to be dangerously inept at dealing with such important matters. Such scant regard for legal risks, contractual obligations and due process as they have demonstrated is very worrying indeed from the Official Opposition on the Council.