Wider debate is called for

14 Nov 2007

The clock is counting down to the big debate in Brentwood when councillors will discuss the blockbuster plans for a £25million multi-screen cinema and shopping complex.

With less than a month to go before crucial meetings at Brentwood Council, the Liberal Democrat group has thrown a potential spanner in the works by slamming the council's consultation process.

Lib Dem group leader Cllr David Kendall and his team staged a press call last week to demand an official borough-wide consultation before any decision is made. The Lib Dems say it is not enough to consult only with residents in the immediate area.

The plans are for a three-storey six-screen cinema and shopping complex to include a food store and upmarket fashion stores. Users will park in a 10-level car park. There will also be a "buffer zone" of housing as a two-storey block of residential units is planned behind the car park, running parallel to Chestnut Grove.

Developer Stockland Halladale made this final draft of the scheme public in early October when the planning application was submitted. The statutory notice was published on October 17 and the usual 21 day deadline allowed for comments. But the company has been working on the plans for two years and holding its own consultations with residents' groups since a first draft last year.

Cllr Kendall says he put his request for a council-led consultation to council bosses even before the final plans came in.

Lib Dem Cllrs Kendall, Straw, Aspinell and Hardy at the William Hunter Way site
Lib Dem Cllrs Kendall, Straw, Aspinell and Hardy at the William Hunter Way site

He said: "This development is about far more than Brentwood getting a new cinema. We are keen for residents to have a full understanding of the size and scale of the development and to hear their views on what is proposed before any final planning decisions are made."