Questions Over Houghton Regis Central Delays

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In the Housing Revenue Account a note mentioned delays to start of works on Houghton Regis Central. Houghton Hall councillor, Susan Goodchild, raised a query to try to get answers for the delay.

12. “The scheme received planning consent in November 2016 and it is proposed that construction will start on site in the summer of 2018. The reason for the revised start date is due to re-programming following the establishment of new governance structures. This will enable a comprehensive tender pack to be prepared and a robust procurement process to be followed. As a result, it is predicted that only £0.312M of the original budget of £2M will be spent in this financial year.”  Source:  HRA REVENUE ACCOUNT (HRA)

This is a transcript* from the relevant part of the meeting:

1:56 Cllr Susan Goodchild:  ... When you think about 200 families in temporary accommodation which,  included in that figure is actually 275 children that is quite worrying.  So I would thank Cllr Ferguson for raising it.

1:57 Cllr Susan Goodchild:  I would, if you don't mind, like to take the opportunity to understand a little bit more about the challenges that have been around Houghton Central because, aside from the traveller, the impact of travellers in  Houghton Regis, Houghton Central is the one thing that is spoke about the most because committee members and officers are here, you know, we've had a hoarding around that Co-op site now for, I think since November 2016, which is .. soon. Behind that hoarding is  100 parking spaces that have been lost to the town which has impacted greatly on retail shopping. But,  it really is a worry and is a question that is asked of all; councillor Kane, councillor Swain, and myself, and councillor Ryan, but  the one thing I'm not clear of is, it says within item 12 under future  investments, that the delay has been following the establishment of new governance structures and it would really be helpful if I could understand what that means, really because in Houghton Regis, you know, we've had residents saying "that's not going to go ahead now because of Brexit", all kinds of rumours and I think if we could have an accurate account of why it has been delayed I think it would really help our residents greatly. Thank you."

Cllr Duckett (Chair): You mean, an accurate account in plain English would be very beneficial? I couldn't agree more, Sue. Are we able to do that, Charles, this morning?

Director of Resources: No chair, sorry. I don't have that information to hand but I'm sure it can be arranged and we can provide a written response, or address it at a future ...

Cllr Duckett (Chair):  Maybe Nick can help because he does get involved in that area.

CBC Officer2:   I'll certainly give some information. I'm sure we can provide a more comprehensive written response. I think reflecting on what we did at Priory View, what was really important, the lessons we learnt from that construction, that new building,  we've had to sort of step back and think differently about how we might do things differently, we have to continue to challenge ourselves over the financial costs of that building and I think we've had to consider other more efficient and effective ways of delivering the buildings. So, it's not been want of just delay, I think there's been real need for us to sort of just step back and consider perhaps different ways of constructing the building, in terms of delivering a more efficient response rather than just continue to do what we did previously learning some of those lessons. But, chair, happy, I'm sure we could provide more information, and I know a member's reference group has been set up around that pretext. I think that’s the reference to the governance structure. That's ..

Cllr Duckett (Chair): Thank you Stuart. Marcel, you've got something to say?
Director Community Services: Chair, yes there is a member reference group. It's actually meeting immediately at the close of this meeting. And I sit on it as well. The latest update is that, subject to the agreement of that group, we're intending to go out to tender for that build in January.

Cllr Duckett (Chair):  Well, there's a little bit of clarity there for you, Sue, a little bit of clarity  but  hopefully more will come in writing. So, you can assuage any of the rumour factory going on around Houghton Regis. It's going to be a great project. It really is a quite a significant investment that we're doing there.

*No liability for any inaccuracies in this transcript is accepted. Please refer to the recording of the meeting for the benefit of doubt.