Council’s top priority project postponed indefinitely

About four weeks ago we repeated the announcement that SHBC was ‘recruiting a design team for a temporary public space on part of a larger development site being cleared for a £200 million scheme’. We speculated that the site was the London Road Block, and that the council didn’t know what to do with it.

Anyway, yesterday there was a discussion on the Eye’s Facebook page which assumed that the development scheme – and timetable – publicised in 2019 was still going ahead. So it’s time, sadly, to put a nail in that particular coffin. Towards the end of last November, it was written that “SHBC has decided not to proceed with the Project. This is due to a number of factors. primarily, however the current economic uncertainty as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and the potentially significant structural changes to the uses of town centres has called into question the entire premise for the proposed development, and the best way to meet the challenges faced.” So, some twenty years after the council first mooted the possibility of redeveloping the area, we’re no further forward.

But, what really frustrates us today is that we’ve found no mention of the project’s cancellation in the ‘News’ section of the council’s website. Similarly, we haven’t found any mention on the council’s ‘Camberleybeinspired’ website. Or on the council’s Facebook page. So residents apparently have been kept in the dark about the fate of what was the council’s number one priority – the redevelopment of the London Road Block. We wish we were surprised by this. But we’ve never accused the council of devoting too much time to open and honest communication, so we’re not.

(Do ALL the councillors know that the project has been abandoned? If so, we’re surprised that the decision hasn’t been publicised more widely.)

8 thoughts on “Council’s top priority project postponed indefinitely

  1. It is little wonder that SHBC is derided and viewed with contempt whenever the London Road redevelopment is brought into question. However, one can finally hope that despite their predictable failures, profligacy of ratepayers’ money, complete lack of professionalism, protracted period of attrition with overhanging threats of compulsory purchase, that we can achieve a satisfactory conclusion to this travesty and deception.
    Obviously, the properties SHBC acquired cheaply by systematically and criminally blighting the area of the London road block should be released back onto the open market for independent builders to redevelop the area within guidelines and bring a closure to this sleazy debacle.

  2. I am sure private investors would like to build a few more flats even this would look better than the shanty town image Camberley has as you drive past

    • One of our readers has e-mailed the following comment (which the Eye can only add as a REPLY to other comments):

      OH DEARY ME.

      The redevelopment of Camberley. Will it ever happen. For years residents have been told to “watch this space” but if there is no money nothing can happen.

      Repeatedly the Leader of the Council has avoided coming clean with residents about the state of affairs at the Council and we still await the completion of the Annual Accounts for the year to March 2020 (YES this is not a typo 2020). The cupboard is bare at Knoll Road and who will lend when there is such a degree of uncertainty.

      Apparently there is a Conservative majority on the Council but in effect it is a socialist administration and the words of Mrs T ring true “the problem with Socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money”. Dismissing the recognised watchword for Tory’s of prudence and competence the Council has for 20 years repeatedly made one poor decision after another.

      The acquisition of the Mall and the House of Fraser store are unparalleled in terms of stupidity as many advised not to dive into retail and Charlie Mayfield, the Chairman of John Lewis, was signalling the demise of bricks and mortar retail, and unfortunately the Council 5 years after the date of purchase continue to refuse to let residents, in who’s name the Council borrowed £180 million pounds to finance the transactions, have any understanding about the up to date position. Incidentally, possibly, the diminution in value over the 5 years might equate to half this figure.

      It is easy to trace back to when this all started to go wrong. It is contained in a little read analysis instigated by Surrey Heath Borough Council entitled The Peer Group Challenge which made 3 observations/recommendations.
      (1) The then Chief Executive Officer (Mrs Whelan) had too much (unchallenged) power.
      (2) Councillors were often kept in the dark and given poor quality or insufficient information on which to approve recommendations coming before the Council.
      (3) The redevelopment of Camberley MUST be a combination of Public and Private Sector investment. Unfortunately since that time Standard Life, Aviva, M&G, Capital & Regional and many others have left town leaving only SHBC (to limp along alone).

      Initially SHBC selected Kier Group as the partner for the redevelopment scheme WITHOUT recognising that it was swimming in more debt than the Council. It was never going to happen and this should have been recognised by the Leader many months ago when in Council he tried to suggest that there was a reappraisal being undertaken when it was obvious that nothing would happen.

      Many have turned their mind to what might be a sensible way forward but are rebuffed at every point as no doubt the Council only believe in the notion that “it was not invented here and therefore must be wrong”. The solution will come at some cost to the Council (and residents) as the Council has no hand to play and any partner will strike a “hard bargain”.

      I think that it would be wrong to lay the blame at the feet of the Councillors save to say that I wish that more had read the Peer Group Challenge and that unfortunately, for good or bad, none put up their hand and admitted that they were unqualified to be part of a group taking the Council into uncharted waters without sticking to the recognised role of the Council in terms of solely meeting the obligations set down in statute.

      This will not end well !!

      • An excellent summation of both the past and future of the disastrous acquisition of The Mall from C&R plc. and the horrible façade that Camberley presents from its main arterial route. No wonder that anyone passing Camberley would think it was a third rate town, with apologies to other third rate towns who are no doubt a lot better. Awful, awful awful the new mantra for education education education or location location location.

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