Call to axe Moirai for Oasis ‘delays’

Labour leader Jim Grant

Labour leader Jim Grant

First published in News Swindon Advertiser: Photograph of the Author by , @Michael_Benke

THE Labour Group has called on the council to terminate its agreement with Moirai after several breaches of its lease agreement to run the Oasis Leisure Centre.

They are criticising the delay in putting forward an application to develop the surrounding area, as well as the decision to sell on a shell company which went bankrupt owing Swindon businesses thousands of pounds.

However, the move has been dismissed as an attempt at political point scoring, with the cabinet member for regeneration saying that while progress is slower than first anticipated, plans are coming together.

Moirai has a lease to run and develop the sit but there have been delays in completing the refurbishment and no planning application has been made for the proposed indoor ski slope and arena, despite a deadline of March this year.

It also emerged last month that a shell company set up by Moirai to run the Oasis was sold and subsequently went bankrupt owing £850,000, much of it to local firms.

The Labour leader, Coun Jim Grant (Lab, Rodbourne Cheney) believes the time has come to sever ties with the company.

He said: “Following the recent revelations about Moirai’s handling of the Oasis development, I asked council officers whether the company had breached its terms of agreement with the council and I was told in no uncertain terms that they had.

“Given this and the fact that the shell company of Moirai owes so much money to HMRC and even local small businesses, we feel it’s time for the council to terminate its agreement with Moirai.

“When the development and long-term lease on the Oasis and surrounding area was proposed with Morai, we did support the development because we felt regenerating the area into a regional leisure destination was an exciting offer that the Swindon public would like to see.

“We think a decision (to terminate the lease) will be supported by many of those small businesses who are still owed money by Moirai’s shell company.”

But Coun Garry Perkins (Con, Haydon Wick), who is responsible for economic growth, said at this stage the council is not considering pulling out of the contract as progress is being made.

He said: “This is about political point scoring. There are no plans to cancel the lease.As we all know, there has been a tough economic period after the last Labour government.

“Development depends on economic conditions and the leisure industry has been hit hard.

“Everyone may have been optimistic at the start with times but talks have been ongoing with operators for the ski-slope and arena.

“It is pointless putting an application in before these agreements have been signed.

“To say nothing has happened is nonsense. We have saved half a million pounds each year of the lease in subsidies and there has been more than £1.5m invested in the reception area and gym.

“If we cancel the lease it sends a message that Swindon is not open for business.

“These days growth is about a partnership between local authorities and business, something Labour do not seem to understand.”

A spokesman for Moirai said: “Moirai Capital is working with Swindon Council to create a sport, leisure and entertainment destination on the North Star site.

“Moirai has already spent over £2,000,000 on the refurbishment of Oasis, including a replacement reception area and a new 100 person Gym. “A further £1,000,000 has been committed to completely refurbish the wet changing areas and to replace the glazing in the dome “Moirai is well advanced on plans for a 50,000sq ft feet extension to Oasis. “When completed, this will provide facilities for a number of extreme sports adding a new range of attraction for Oasis.

“The planning of the North Star site has been progressing well, with tenants for the ski slope and a high proportion of the other facilities including the music arena, the bowling and food and beverage outlets already at an advance stage of negotiation with the prospective tenants.

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