THE nine councillors, and two council officers, tasked with discussing the proposal of flats in Festival Place have been revealed.

As previously reported, a group of previously-unnamed councillors have been holding private meetings in which the option of building flats in Festival Place shopping centre has been considered.

Leader of Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council, Cllr Ken Rhatigan, confirmed that the council is working with HemingwayDesign, Allies and Morrison and its “town centre partners” to explore options for how to best use the space and encourage a “greater mix of uses”.

The Gazette asked the council who makes up this secret group, how long it has been meeting for, and the outcome of discussions about flats in Festival Place, as well as whether we could attend to report on proceedings.

The Town Centre Members Advisory Group, set up in April 2021, is designed to provide recommendations to the portfolio holder, in this case Cllr Hannah Golding, cabinet member for economic development. 

Under its constitution, the council can choose to hold the meetings of these groups in private, and in this case has chosen to do so. The cross-party group was selected through nomination by party leaders, but no members of the press, public or other councillors can attend meetings.

It says that any findings will be made publicly available through a report, with further public consultation on the town centre vision also scheduled.

The full list of group members is:

  • Cllr Hannah Golding - cabinet member for economic development
  • Cllr Simon Bound - cabinet member for communities, planning and infrastructure
  • Cllr Tristan Robinson - cabinet member for homes and housing regeneration
  • Cllr John Izett - cabinet member for finance and major projects
  • Cllr Laura James (BDI, Norden)
  • Cllr Paul Harvey (BDI, Norden)
  • Cllr Gavin James (Lib Dem, Eastrop & Grove)
  • Cllr Carolyn Wooldridge (Labour, Norden)
  • Cllr Michael Howard-Sorrell (Labour, Brookvale & Kings Furlong)
  • Project manager, Kate Dean - council officer 
  • Economy and culture manager, Daniel Garnier - council officer  

In addition, consultants assisting with the Town Centre Strategy project also attend if the meeting is relevant to them.

The group has so far met three times, with its next meeting to be held on Monday, September 27.

A council spokesperson said: “As per the council’s constitution, these meetings are held in private. Any findings from these meetings will be made publicly available through a report to the relevant overview and scrutiny committee as the project develops. The final vision would come through Cabinet and Council for formal adoption.”

Expanding on the question of transparency to the general public, they continued: “Member Advisory Panels are intended to advise cabinet members on issues within their areas of responsibility. 

“These groups do not have any decision-making powers. These councillor groups should as far as possible be time-limited and task specific, and where appropriate re-appointed at the start of each new council year.

“These meetings can be held in private but following the conclusion of their work, the issue being discussed must be the subject of a report to a publicly convened meeting where the group should make recommendations for decision either by a committee meeting in public or by a cabinet Member, based on a publicly available report.”

The spokesperson added that the discussions followed public engagement on the town centre project, with further consultation planned for later this year to “give landowners, residents, businesses, organisations and councillors the chance to find out more about the work to date and have their say before a final vision and masterplan is developed”.