It would be “irresponsible” to enter into a development agreement for the proposed revamp of the leisure park, Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council’s cabinet was warned, writes Matthew Brown.
But it still approved the deal with NewRiver amid warnings the public was not being consulted properly, concerns about the developer, the impact on Festival Place and traffic.
The £200million proposal would mean the 60-acre site in Worting Road would double in size through the complete rebuilding of the aquadome.
There would be a brand new, state-of-the-art, dual-use ice rink and events arena alongside other high-octane leisure activities such as a velodrome and surfing centre.
There are also plans for a designer outlet, similar to ones in York and Swindon, that would fund the total redevelopment of the leisure park without any public money.
It is hoped that the project will bring 2,400 new jobs to the borough and make Basingstoke a significant regional and potentially national leisure destination.
Cllr Michael Westbrook was concerned the public were not being consulted.
He said the council “hadn’t adopted this kind of strategy with any other major project” and public consultation makes clear “what residents actually want and expect prior to development partners being involved or any agreement being signed”.
Concerns about NewRiver were raised by Cllr David Potter who described it as the “tail wagging the dog, having a situation where NewRiver is the only game in town where everything is fitted around their aspirations and business
He was also concerned about the developer being overoptimistic in the type of designer brands they can attract.
If their vision was unviable then the whole project would not proceed, he said.
There were also traffic concerns about the extra pressures being put on the West Ham roundabout.
He concluded by saying “there is much more work to be done on the project and it will be irresponsible of the cabinet to enter in to a legal agreement with NewRiver at this time”.
Cllr John Izett defended the borough council, adding that they had “a good process and have ensured that this council is receiving very good advice throughout”.
The agreement will kick start a long-term programme including discussions with the leisure industry to secure new attractions, infrastructure and extensive community engagement before a planning application can be put together.