THE varying progress of the Grays and Tilbury towns funds was laid bare at a specially convened council meeting reports the Local Democracy Reporter.
At an extraordinary meeting of the planning, transport and regeneration overview and scrutiny meeting on Wednesday it was revealed the Tilbury towns fund plan and its youth zone project are on track, while the Grays town fund has stalled.
After chairman Luke Spillman criticised officers for not producing reports ahead of the meeting they apologised and gave a visual presentation on the towns funds to councillors.
Councillors heard the Tilbury town fund, which has a Government grant of £22.8m along with £2million from Thames Freeport, is progressing well.
Plans for a new build community building and skills centre have been dropped in favour of refurbishing surplus buildings in the area. These include Brennan Road and 15a Civic Square for the skills centre and community resource centre.
A planning application for a new pontoon for additional passenger services at the Tilbury Landing Stage is expected to be submitted before the end of the year.
A youth zone had planning consent approved in October and is expected to open in 2025 on Anchor Fields, Tilbury. Work is now underway looking at leases and licenses for the youth centre. The council will still own the land but the committee heard it is likely to only receive a peppercorn rent.
Lee Watson, Labour councillor for West Thurrock and Stifford, said: “I think we should be looking at a ground rent of some sort and not just writing it off as peppercorn because this council needs an income for the sake of our residents.”
The Grays project, which also has a £22.8million grant, is undergoing a “substantial review” after over-ambitious plans proved unworkable, including the proposed Grays underpass. Plans for a riverside activity centre have also been ditched and instead proposals to upgrade amenities at Grays beach and riverfront are being considered.
Chairman Luke Spillman, said: “The beach, that is where we make the real change to Grays. If we can deliver a beach in Grays it could absolutely completely change the whole town and we need to make sure that project above all is perfect.
“If that gets nailed then Grays just changes. For me even without the other elements, if you get that beach in place, there are people that travel from London all the way to Southend but if you put some basic facilities for mum, dad and tots around that beach they won’t go to Southend. They’ll stop in Grays and give it a try. If we get that it will transform the High Street as well.”