Shrewsbury shopping centres: Shropshire Council cabinet agrees move to buy Darwin, Pride Hill and Riverside
Shropshire Council's cabinet has approved a move for the authority to buy Shrewsbury's two major shopping centres - with a full vote to take place next week.
The deal, which includes the Charles Darwin Shopping Centre, The Pride Hill Shopping Centre, and buying out the lease of the council owned Riverside Shopping Centre from Standard Life, was agreed at today's meeting of cabinet.
Full approval for the deal, described as an "amazing opportunity" by the authority's chief executive Clive Wright, will require a vote of the full council at its meeting on December 14.
The authority says that if councillors back the decision then it aims to complete the purchase, expected to cost tens of millions of pounds, by January 23.
Mr Wright said that the move would ensure that the council is leading the economic growth and regeneration of Shrewsbury's town centre, something the authority says will have a knock-on economic boost for the rest of the county.
He said: "This is capital expenditure and it is an investment that is primarily about the regeneration of the town centre – something we have been working on that the public have wanted us to do for some time. It matches the development on highways, bringing housing into the town, and attracting new retailers like Primark. It all fits into that.
"It is very exciting.
"It is primarily about regenerating the town centre and attracting visitors, but also getting a good return on our investment."
Council leader Peter Nutting said that analysis has shown that the purchase would generate significant financial returns, greater than those on some of the council's current investments.
Councillor Nutting said: "At the moment our money is earning 0.64 per cent, if we can get that up to seven to 10 per cent, it is got to be good for Shropshire."
He added: "What people need to understand is that it is the commercial activities that will fund the social service functions of the council in the future.
No figures have been released for the cost of the deal due to commercial confidentiality.
The council has said they will be available when it is in a position to do so.
A previous plan to create a linked shopping centre called New Riverside, encompassing all three centres and a new development, will not be revived according to the authority.
Council leader Peter Nutting said the authority would look to develop a new plan for the Riverside focussing on mixed use, potentially involving leisure facilities and residential property.
Deal ‘will kick-start Shrewsbury’s regeneration’
Senior figures at the council have hailed the deal, which could be concluded by January 23, as a significant pillar in its bid to support the economic growth of Shrewsbury's town centre and the wider county.
Council leader Peter Nutting said the deal represents a huge opportunity for the council and the county.
He said: "We have paid a lot of money to get the best advice on the position and we are pretty confident we know what we are doing and this is a good investment for the council in the long term.
"This is an opportunity for Shropshire to really influence the future of the county and we are very confident this is the right thing to do."
Councillor Nutting said that a previous plan to link the Darwin and Pride Hill centres with a redeveloped Riverside, focussed on an anchor tenant department store, would not be revived.
George Candler, the council's director of place, said that taking over the sites would allow the council control of the regeneration of the area – particularly Riverside.
He said: "It is in need of some pretty substantial improvement. By taking control of that footprint it lets us look at the wider footprint of what we want to do with the area."
Council chief executive, Clive Wright said: "It is an opportunity to put things in the right place, to master plan."
Councillor Nutting said that a focus for the redevelopment would be a mixed-use site, potentially including leisure facilities and residential property.
He said: "Thinking about the future I do not think there should be a rush to change anything although it is clear the Riverside needs substantial re-development."
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He also said the authority would investigate the possibility of incorporating the river into any redevelopment.
He said: "We really are interested in how we can make the most of the river.
"How that affects Smithfield Road is one of the key questions and one of the fundamental questions when we consider the future of the Riverside. It is a wasted opportunity at the moment."
Councillor Nutting said that specialist property agents would undertake the day-today management of the site and the consideration of future redevelopment.
He added: "We regard this very much as an investment opportunity rather than something we manage on a day-to-day basis."
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