Oasis Development given more time through ‘opaque’ decision

The Swindon Labour Group Leader, Councillor Jim Grant, has criticised the decision of Swindon Council Leader, Councillor David Renard, for granting Moirai more time to start with the Oasis redevelopment.

This decision was taken through a Cabinet Member Briefing Note, which consulted the Leaders of the Political Groups and the Councillors of Rodbourne Cheney Ward which covers the Oasis site. The Labour Group Leader had urged the Cabinet Member for Economic Development to take any decision on the Oasis to a Cabinet Meeting where a decision could be taken in an open and transparent way but this call was ignored and the Leader of the Council signed off the Briefing Note in August.

In July, it was discovered that Moirai had breached its development agreement with the Council by failing to obtain approval for a planning master plan of the development by the contractual deadline, March 13th 2014, and because of Moirai’s shell company, MW Contract Services Ltd (formerly Oasis Operations Ltd), going in to liquidation. Last month it was revealed that the shell company owed £850,000 to creditors at the time of its liquidation, including local small businesses like Storm Recruitment, based in Commercial Road, which is owed £4,721, and Carlton Services in Old Town, which is owed more than £2,000.

Following the briefing note being agreed, Moirai now have had the following targets set:

  • All remaining works to the Oasis Leisure Centre be completed by no later than 31st March 2015 and the works commence no later than 31st October 2014
  • A planning application with associated masterplan be submitted by no later than 31st May 2015
  • The backstop date for Moirai securing detailed planning consent for the scheme now is 31st January 2016

The Swindon Labour Group Leader, Councillor Jim Grant, said:

“I am very disappointed with this decision, not only because I think that after Moirai failed to meet their targets in the development agreement it is time for the Council to break from the development agreement, but also because of the way the Leader of the Council has taken this decision behind closed doors.

We already know that Moirai’s shell company owed near to a million pounds to its creditors, before it went in to liquidation and with the economy growing as it has there isn’t any excuse as to why there have been so many problems other than because of Moirai’s poor management.

And, make no mistake, the land the Council is agreeing to give away to Moirai is worth millions of pounds so to give it away to a company whose record so far has been very disappointing, doesn’t make sense. What we should be doing is looking for another private provider to take over the running of this development who has a proven track record on delivering on large schemes such as this one.

This whole saga really does remind me of the council’s involvement in the Wi-Fi scheme several years ago where the Council made decisions involving large amounts of council-taxpayers money. With decisions being taken behind closed doors and the Conservative administration failing to realise when it is time for the Council to walk away from a company that has failed to deliver.”

Councillor Jim Grant
Swindon Labour Group Leader