DELAYS to the £3m redevelopment of Brentwood High Street have been blasted – on the eve of a major policy summit.
A key campaigner has accused planners of being “slower than a tortoise”.
And he claims that the scheme has rumbled on for so long – more than five years – that the public has lost interest.
Save Brentwood Action Group secretary Gerry Bender said: “A nice picture of a tortoise would sum it up. In fact a tortoise would probably move faster.
“It is slow – incredibly slow. In Romford they have built a new hospital, knocked the old one down and built seven blocks of flats in less time than it has taken us to get a junction improvement, traffic calming measures and the other High Street improvements.”
Mr Bender aired his views as the first signs of real progress came to fruition:
●A demolition notice has been served on the Sir Charles Napier pub to allow for a new slip road.
●And Brentwood council is poised to establish a new steering group to help speed up the improvements as part of a longer vision.
At the annual meeting of Brentwood Town Centre Partnership last week, highways officers from Essex County Council and Brentwood council said the scheme was progressing through its final legal stages.
They also revealed they were close to completing the final designs which will be shown to stakeholders at a meeting at Brentwood Town Hall on Thursday June 26.
But Mr Bender says the improvements have been so long in coming that residents have lost all enthusiasm.
He said: “They said it is taking so long because of the legal thing. But wouldn't you have thought the acquisition of rights would have happened at the beginning of the process rather than at the end?
“I think what has held it up is a complex issue. There have been a lot of personnel changes at Brentwood council. With our new relationship with the county council and sharing Joanna Killian as a chief executive, you would have thought that she would have seen this as a high priority. If we haven't got the ear of the county council then Brentwood's chief executive and Essex's chief executive have a communication problem!
“I think the enthusiasm of local people has waned because of the length of time this has taken.
“If it were all completed tomorrow Brentwood would be a significantly improved town geared up for the future.”
ECC yesterday said plans for the Charles Napier junction and High Street improvement were at an “advanced stage”.
ECC cabinet member for highways and transportation Cllr Norman Hume added: “The scheme is currently progressing through its final legal stages and it is hoped all outstanding issues will be resolved soon.
“ECC are continuing to work with the local community and all stakeholders are being kept continually informed.
“The scheme will include pedestrian friendly features, divert much of the current traffic away from the existing High Street and significantly improve the street scene.”
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