02:15PM, Wednesday 24 July 2019
Claims the council is selling off its ability to control the redevelopment of the Nicholsons Centre were dismissed on Tuesday night.
Liberal Democrats complained at full council that, by selling its freehold interests in the shopping centre to new owner Tikehau Capital, the borough would lose its say in how the site is redeveloped.
Tikehau Capital, a wealthy French asset management group, has partnered with Areli Real Estate to redevelop the centre, which the former bought in February from administrators.
Cllr Dudley presented councillors with plans to sell its freehold interest - the holder of which can grant leases to another person or business – in the centre and Central House, a building on the site, to Tikehau for a combined £6million, subject to the firm getting planning permission to redevelop the site.
A public consultation held in March resulted in a masterplan which featured a proposed public square, a mix of shops and better town centre connections.
A new car park replacing the heavily-criticised one in Broadway is also planned.
“It looks fantastic now but once we give up our freehold ownership we lose (our) say, we are no longer a partner in the enterprise, we become a beggar at the feast if you like,” Lib Dem leader Cllr Simon Werner (Pinkneys Green) said.
“Strategic ownership of these sites means that we are in the game, we are making sure the developer honours the commitments that they’ve made so far through the public consultation and master plan.”
Cllr Lynne Jones (Ind, Old Windsor), the leader of the Local Independents group, said: “My gut feeling is that this is a good thing.”
But she said she had concerns how the new development would fit into the existing vision for Maidenhead town centre’s future.
“This is such a major part of the redevelopment that I think we do need to see how it fits into that strategy, the vision, and what changes to the strategy this decision brings about.”
Cllr Dudley agreed and said: “A piece of work is being done at the moment about the town centre vision and actually Areli have been instrumental in wanting to have a completely joined-up town centre vision for Maidenhead to make sure their development fits within that.”
Addressing Cllr Werner’s concerns, he said: “Our control over what this scheme really looks like as a council is as the local planning authority, with our expert planning department.
“We have some very skilled planning officers, we have a number of planning policies so ultimately the decision here will be made by planning officers.
“These are the recommendations (to sell the freeholds) - you can back the town and support them or not, that is your decision as the leader of the Liberal Democrats, Cllr Werner.”
The discussion continued into ‘part two’ of the meeting, which excludes the press and public when sensitive information is discussed.
Thirty-one councillors voted in favour of the sale while Cllrs Simon Bond (Lib Dem, Belmont) and Mandy Brar (Lib Dem, Bisham and Cookham) voted against.
Cllrs Clive Baskerville (Lib Dem, Pinkneys Green), Karen Davies (Lib Dem, Clewer East), Catherine del Campo (Lib Dem, Furze Platt), Ewan Larcombe (Ind, Datchet Horton and Wraysbury), Amy Tisi (Lib Dem, Clewer East), and Werner abstained.
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