Published: 17:30, 23 October 2014
Anger has erupted after it was revealed Swale council has spent more than £1.1million behind the scenes on the town’s regeneration plans...which are yet to start.
The figure was revealed by Murston resident Chris Hanson, who made a request under the Freedom of Information Act to find out the costs related to the scheme.
A breakdown showed that since April 2008, the local authority has spent £1,182,427.70.
The biggest chunk was £421,581.75 for professional/consultants/surveyors fees in 2008/09 and a further £233,372.25 the following financial year.
Meanwhile, professional fees for legal work to be carried out on the development agreement and heads of terms between the council and its development partner, the Spirit of Sittingbourne Consortium, cost £115,826.61 in 2011/12.
The lowest expenditure was £14 on meeting expenses in 2013/14.
In all, £4,061.60 has been spent on advertising and printing.
It led to anger from residents after the details were published online.
Aaron Makepeace said: “Shocking. Doesn’t include council officers’ expenses or spirit costs.”
Darren Taylor added: “What an incredible waste of money, which doesn’t even include salaries.”
Mark Foster wrote: “Jaw dropping reading.”
Mr Hanson, of Sunny Bank, asked for the information after he decided to shelve his plans to reopen the old cinema at the bottom of Sittingbourne High Street.
This was due to an announcement that another interested party, who runs a smaller independent cinema in Burnham-on-Crouch in Essex, is going to start showing films at the venue this December.
The 37-year-old said: “I think people are quite surprised about the amount and not having anything to show for it.
“I understand there’s going to be money spent before anything happens but over that length of time?
“It seems they’re flogging a dead horse. I’m hoping that by putting it in the public domain it might shake things up a bit.”
Labour’s regeneration spokesman Cllr Roger Truelove said: “Chris has done the local community a great service in getting this information.
“Of course, the real costs are much greater as staff have been employed in very senior posts specifically to pursue this plan.
“The embarrassment of spending so much to achieve so little has created a pressure to do something, no matter what.”
Swale’s regeneration director Pete Raine says the figures aren't as clear cut as they may appear.
That’s because the larger amounts in 2008/09 and 2009/10 were spent when Tesco was going to work with the authority to regenerate the town.
He said: “Of that £1.1million, £654,954 was spent on writing master plans which then didn’t happen because they [the supermarket chain] changed their plans.
“That also included highways research work on Junction 5 [of the M2] and design work on Milton Creek Country Park so some of it led to something, some didn’t, some is still bubbling away and some was aborted.
“The £86,599 in 2010/11 was to find the new development partner, which led to the appointment of Spirit of Sittingbourne.
“Over the last four years, we’ve spent just shy of £437,000 to get the agreement signed, do legal work and consult professionals to make sure we’re getting good value for money. That works out as £125,000 a year, which will lever in a £65m in investment in the town which includes the cinema which everyone wants.”