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Political war of words over London Road Industrial Estate redevelopment

A war words is brewing between two political parties over the future of the London Road Industrial Estate.

In the blue corner are the Conservative Party and in the yellow corner are the Liberal Democrats who claim "the management of this project has been extremely poor, at significant cost to local taxpayers."

Regeneration of the area has been a long-held ambition for the Council with the aim of it delivering new office and light industrial space in the area. As well as new business space, subject to wider consultation regeneration it could also deliver up to 544 new homes on the site and provide an opportunity to introduce new active travel routes making it easier for people to travel through that part of town.

Lee Dillon, Leader of the Liberal Democrats on West Berkshire Council, said: "Although our approach to redeveloping the site would have been different from the start to the Conservatives, as potential future leaders of West Berkshire Council, we understand that there may come a time where we have to work with the developer to implement the plans adopted by the current administration, and as such we have aimed to approach this response in a constructive manner. That said, we cannot remain silent on the way that this project has been handled by the previous Conservative administration of this Council. In particular, the management of this project has been extremely poor, at significant cost to local taxpayers.

"The approach we have been urging the Council to take to the redevelopment of the London Road Industrial Estate (LRIE) is to maximise the value of the site to the local community as a whole (rather than simply extracting as much rental income as possible as the landlord), working with all stakeholders, including the current occupiers, in a manner less adversarial than has often appeared to be the case."

Councillor Ross Mackinnon (Conservative) West Berkshire Council’s Executive Member for Finance and Economic Development, expressed his deep frustration and disappointment in the party politics being played out by the opposition Liberal Democrat group over the development of the London Road Industrial Estate.

His comments come after a public statement critical of the current management of the project issued by the opposition group on Monday 10 November, despite there having been a Liberal Democrat member on the Project Board throughout the process.

Cllr Mackinnon said: “This action has the danger of resulting in a fundamental breakdown of trust in the Liberal Democrats on the part of the Conservative project board members. Party politicking is one thing, but publicly undermining a Board that you have a member on - without making that membership clear - does little to encourage cross-party co-operation and runs the risk of cynicism about Liberal Democrat involvement in a number of other Boards and Task Groups.

“In recognition of the long-term strategic importance of the LRIE project, the Conservative administration offered the Liberal Democrat opposition a seat on the Project Board, providing an opportunity for cross-party working and collaboration to the mutual benefit of the council and its residents. The opposition are always keen to call for such collaboration, so we trusted that they would respond constructively and enthusiastically to the opportunity.

“Sadly, this has proved to be far from the case - in the ten meetings of the Project Board since December, the Liberal Democrat representative has been absent from seven of them (attending none from December 2019 until September 2020). Despite this apparent lack of interest, the Conservative members remained hopeful that the Project Board would ultimately benefit from the opposition’s presence.”

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