Tell them what you think…

Now the dust has settled after the local elections, the ousting of Cllr. Gavin Callaghan from the leadership of Basildon Council and the forthcoming formation of a new Tory administration, what will happen regarding the future of Basildon town centre?

One of the reasons for the defeat of the Basildon Alliance (Labour and a selection of Independents) was their fervent backing of the town centre masterplan a.k.a. the ‘disaster plan’. Arrogance and dismissing the legitimate concerns of many residents about the forest of high rise apartment blocks that were proposed blew right back on the Alliance. Spouting bullshit has consequences:)

So what happens next regarding the town centre? Apologies for linking to the Basildon Borough Conservatives website but currently, there’s nothing on the Basildon Council website about this: Basildon Conservatives confirm commitment to a fresh public consultation on the future of Basildon Town Centre.

It’s no secret that we’re pretty cynical about consultations as all too often, they’re about presenting a range of options with people invited to make a choice of the ‘best’…or in truth, the least worst! This is what the leader of Basildon Conservatives, Cllr. Andrew Baggott, had to say: “The last Administration thought they knew best and that they could get away with ignoring residents. They were sorely mistaken. We, on the other hand, will listen to the public and it is their views that will inform everything we do.”

However, before we get too excited, there’s this from the above item: Leading councillors in the new Administration had productive meetings with senior officers at The Basildon Centre last week to discuss parameters for a thorough public consultation with residents on their hopes and aspirations for the future of Basildon Town Centre.

It’s the use of the word ‘parameters’ that to be honest, is pretty worrying. Particularly given the clout senior officers in local authorities tend to have. ‘Parameters’ could be seen as implying there may well be limits to what can and can’t be discussed and…there may be a vestige of a plan to be discussed within those parameters.

Let’s put it this way, it doesn’t look as though they’ll be starting with a completely blank sheet of paper. Having said this, the opportunity to have a say will be there and it needs to be vigorously embraced by anyone in Basildon who cares about the future of the town centre. It’s a case of by any means necessary. It’s also a case that eternal vigilance is required to ensure the consultation is genuine and not a sham.

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