You may have seen the following headline about Camberley in the local paper this week. It’s been publicised quite widely too:
This news will come as no great surprise to our readers. We were saying the same thing nearly a year ago, in our article titled ‘Camberley – the town that time will forget?’ – http://wp.me/p3Dlu2-1Lk
What’s more the news should come as no surprise to the council. Something like eighteen months ago, the Local Government Association carried out a peer review of our borough council. About the council’s plans for the town centre it wrote in an internal document:
“The priority of Camberley town centre regeneration is a huge project, which carries a high level of risk. It will need a great deal of advance preparatory work to structure a financial package that the Council can commit to and provide partners with the evidence to ensure they have confidence that the regeneration scheme is viable and will proceed.
“It will be important to evidence what options are available to the Council, and what risks have been assessed, if the proposed development falters and/or retail partners pull out. For example, the principal focus to date is of an anchor store underpinning the development. However, discussions with this store have been ongoing for six years and a positive response is still awaited. The timescales for implementation are also ambitious bearing in mind the number of significant interdependencies, which reinforces the point made earlier about improved arrangements for project/programme management.”
As the Eye said in the public meeting last week, there’s no criticism of the council for the fact that the world has changed. But the council’s failure to be open about the problems it faces (why has it taken a year for the ‘bad news’ to be made public?) is disappointing, to say the least. It also harms the image of the council. If information is withheld, residents might suspect that the council is incompetent, or devious, or both.