URGENT talks are being held between Basildon and Essex councils as the Government plans to flog an important town centre car park for housing.
Government body the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) is auctioning the ’Trafford House Bowl’ – the circular car park close to Basildon train station – for future development.
The car park contains a feeder area – designated by Essex Council – for taxis to wait close to the station taxi rank.
Tory council leader Phil Turner has spoken of his ’disappointment’, saying the council had been in talks with the HCA to buy the car park but had been priced out.
Cabbies said the loss of the feeder rank would have ’horrendous’ consequences for their business, claiming the station generates up to 700 taxi journeys on an average week day.
According to website UK Auction List, the 0.24-hectare car park is set to be auctioned at midday next Wednesday, February 22, for a ballpark figure of £450,000.
The website said the site had ’development potential’ and was ’ideal for investment’.
Basildon Council said it had instigated talks with highways authority Essex Council to try to identify an alternative waiting area for taxi drivers.
A spokesman said the council had held initial discussions with local cab drivers to see where they felt a replacement feeder rank could be located.
They added: “Initial contact has been made with Essex County Council to open up discussions about the possibility of identifying an alternative suitable site which will serve the Hackney Carriage trade as well as having a minimal impact on the surrounding area.”
Cllr Turner learned of the auction from the Yellow Advertiser and said he was ’surprised’ by the news. He said resulting enquiries by council officers had discovered the HCA felt it could make more money – possibly up to £600,000 – by selling to a private developer.
He said: “They seem to have had some interest at that level. We had been in negotiations to buy it but given the likely return on investment for Basildon taxpayers, that price means it’s no longer worth it.
“I can’t hide my disappointment. We’ve offered them a fairly decent price for it. We could do a lot more for the people of Basildon with that land than a developer will.
“We were initially planning to keep it in its current form as a car park. Longer term, we were looking at an option to retain the car park but build over the top of it.
“It’s just a shame that the HCA and the Treasury don’t look more favourably on councils like us that have got a lot of things going for them and could make good use of that land.”
The HCA did not respond to a request for a comment.