Shropshire Council confirmed councillors voted to proceed with the purchase of Darwin, Pride Hill and Riverside Shopping Centres in a private section of the full council meeting yesterday.
Councillor Alan Mosley, who represents Castlefields and Ditherington, said he was disappointed his amendment, asking for the plans to go back to cabinet with a request to open a public consultation before any decisions were made, was rejected.
“This is one of the most important decisions made by the council for many years and I was extremely disappointed that my amendment to refer the proposals back to the cabinet was rejected,” he said. “We should be putting this out to widespread public consultation and rigorous scrutiny as enormous amounts of money are at stake in a very high risk project,” he said.
“The shopping centre marketplace is in decline with many investors pulling out including the owners of the Shrewsbury sites, even though they have just spent many millions investing in the Darwin Centre to bring in Primark.
“These proposals which have been rushed and rely on the work of one firm of consultants, could be a major failure especially as the council itself lacks experience and expertise. This will be at the expense of all residents.
“Everyone wants to see the town’s economy prospering but the returns quoted seem highly inflated compared to other data and there are no clear plans for how the centres will be developed in future.
“The administration should be delaying this to further investigate, question, scrutinise and above all should be listening to residents.”
Council leader Peter Nutting has previously said that analysis has shown that the purchase would generate significant financial returns, greater than those on some of the council’s current investments.
The amendment was seconded by Longden Councillor Roger Evans who said he was disappointed with the result of the vote.
He added: “The amount of money being spent on this is a significant amount of the money that Shropshire Council has in the bank and it’s just been rushed through. I’m against it because we don’t know what’s going to happen with shopping centres over the next 10 years. It’s a big risk.
“I’m also disappointed the whole debate was held in secret because I think the public should have had a chance to have their say on it.”
The authority is expected to complete the purchase by January 23.