THE developer behind the proposed £50 million Pavilion Gardens scheme for Bournemouth town centre plans to pursue legal action after the council stood by its decision to pull the plug.
As reported in the Daily Echo, council leader Cllr John Beesley took the decision, following legal advice, to end the contract with Trevor Osborne's Osborne Bournemouth Ltd after the developer struggled to attract funding and an anchor tenant for the Westover Road scheme.
Cllr Beesley's decision was called-in for scrutiny by councillors Carol Ainge and Ron Whittaker and went before a scrutiny panel last night, which decided to take no further action - it could have requested reconsideration.
Cllrs Ainge and Whittaker said Mr Osborne should be given another six months - he has already had several extensions.
At the meeting, Mr Osborne said: “I have not failed to comply with anything. The decision fails to take into account the reason why funding has not yet been confirmed.”
Mr Osborne added that was because the rival West Central scheme at Exeter Road was up in the air while the council pursued a Compulsory Purchase Order on a small piece of land that would prevent it.
He said that if that was successful and the council pushed through its plans for a bus hub on that site, funding would come to fruition once investors knew that his scheme was most likely to be built.
“It has caused Odeon cinemas to believe that the council was going to pull the plug on me anyway,” said Mr Osborne.
He said the decision was taken without adequate consultation or proper scrutiny and accused the council of not acting in good faith.
Cllr Beesley said the decision had to be made because the council could be seen to have waived its right to rescind it if it was left any later.
He said that the CPO decision for West Central was unrelated to the Pavilion Gardens site and it seemed that the funding for Pavilion Gardens now came down to the success or failure of that.
“Throughout, not only have we acted fairly and in good faith, but we have exercised such patience that, as time has gone by, has quite surprised me,” he said, adding that Osborne Bournemouth Ltd had seven years to get funding in place.
He said: “I'm afraid to say that Trevor Osborne Property Group has failed in that primary purpose.
“I do not believe that any further extension is likely to make a scrap of difference to that funding coming forward to support this development.
“There does come a time when you have to call it a day.”
Making a final plea referring to his investment and money paid earlier in the contract, Mr Osborne told the panel: “Do I deserve to be treated like this? Do I deserve to lose £3.5 million and be charged £1.35 million?”
After the decision, Mr Osborne told the Daily Echo he would now be going down the litigation route.
“The council have ignored a request for a meeting and I think the least the council could do is put their lawyers together with our lawyers to discuss the decision,” he said.
AFTER the meeting, Cllr Beesley said: “I'm pleased that the panel was able to reiterate the very clear and distinct separation between the council's aspirations for a bus hub at Exeter Road and its decision to terminate the contract with Osborne Bournemouth Ltd.
“I must be clear - the council is pursuing a Compulsory Purchase Order on the NCP site at Exeter Road for one reason only - to bring about a much-needed surface level bus hub in the town centre in order to significantly reduce congestion in Gervis Place, creating a safer and more attractive environment in that area.
“The council is not in the business of taking action that will favour any developer over another and categorically did not take the decision to progress with the CPO in order to prevent the proposed Licet development so that the Pavilion Gardens scheme might be viewed more favourably by investors.
“These factors are for the market to decide and the market has done so. It has become clear that both market and the council's confidence in the developer's ability to deliver the scheme has been lost. That is down to the developer alone.”
He added that he was “very disappointed” that funding was not secured “within the timescales agreed by both parties”.
“However, the council cannot allow a developer with no secured funding exclusive development rights over a flagship town centre site indefinitely. We are committed to our Town Centre Vision, and we will be considering future opportunities for the Bath Road North site as a priority,” he said.
Cllr Chris Wakefield, chairman of the panel, added: “The role of the panel was to determine whether the decision of the council to rescind the contract with Osborne (Bournemouth) Ltd was made with due regard to all available relevant information.
“The panel's conclusion was that all appropriate information was fully considered during the decision-making process and that therefore the decision should stand.”