Sefton Council – will it be buying more shopping centers in the Borough?

Bootle New Strand shopping centre

In what can only be seen as a surprise move last year Sefton Council splashed out over £30m of public money to buy The Strand Shopping Centre in Bootle, a move that shocked many in these times of austerity for local authorities.

But it seems that buying shopping centres is quite the fashion for local councils these days as the article below details from the BBC website:-

I’m the first to say that I’m highly sceptical of such moves by cash-strapped councils – it’s a massive gamble that could go horribly wrong. I had not realised that Wigan Council had purchased The Galleries but having walked around it’s all but deserted upper floor before Christmas you really do wonder what that council can do to bring back the lost retail outlets.

Of course, Sefton Council’s previous big move into retail property development was to take on the rebuild and running of Southport Indoor Market a few years back. This was another hugely controversial investment which I and others on the Council at the time opposed.

But as Sefton and indeed other councils are now firmly into retail property development will this mean other shopping centres locally will be snapped up at lowish prices using borrowed public money? Makes you wonder, especially when private sector owners seem to struggle to find the resources to upgrade down at heel shopping centres such as Maghull Square.

I’m not advocating that Sefton buys up more retail property, because I think it has too much risk attached to it, but if the Council’s Labour rulers really do think that acquiring shopping centres is the next big thing for municipal socialism why stop at Southport Market and Bootle Strand?

Thanks to both Roy Connell and Keith Page for the leads to this posting

3 thoughts on “Sefton Council – will it be buying more shopping centers in the Borough?

  1. David Evans says:

    I think that the concept of “other shopping centres locally will be snapped up at lowish prices using borrowed public money,” will be seen to be a fantasy. Local councillors, getting spooked by the crisis, spending huge amounts of money, far too late to have an effect, on something they and their officers have no experience of, when the market is turning rapidly downwards (and covering it all up under a pretence of commercial confidentiality) will be the norm for the vast majority of councils. And then there is the effect of Brexit.

    Some, mainly in more affluent areas, will make a success of it, but they will be few and far between.

    Quite simply, a disaster for all the residents of those councils.

  2. Frank says:

    Regarding the development of Maghull Square.
    It is clear to everyone that the square needs to be re-generated not only to support the residents current needs but also the needs of future residents (which may increase by a fifth of the current population if proposed housing developments are realised).

    I spoke to London and Cambridge who own the square and much more in the vicinity and their property management team – Marshall’s, in October, about their regeneration plans which have not progressed over approximately seven years. They suggested that they originally envisaged that it would cost about £200,000 to make the planned changes to the car park (which included a substantial reduction of the pavements), however many of the underground services to the shops they discovered would complicate the work resulting in an increase cost to £600,000. Apparently a cost they could not accommodate and were unable to find any public funds to support this work locally/regionally..

    Arguably, London and Cambridge have done a reasonable job in keeping many of shops occupied. However, I feel they are potentially missing out on an opportunity to make the centre a real visionary destination for an increasing population by not seeking investment through collaboration which in turn would increase footfall and profits.

    Opportunities exist through the following:
    – The expiry of leases for the police station and garage.
    – Towns like Altrincham have bucked the High Street demise and was recently held up as a beacon by the local media and have been visited by many local authorities.
    – Steve Rotherham (Local Metro mayor) invited applications by local authorities for a share of £500 million In November, for exactly the remit that Maghull requires.

    Let’s hope it is a happy New Year!

    • Very interesting Frank, although reading that L&CP have got themselves into this situation by seemingly not understanding the extent of the works required is very odd. How long is it since the former owners, The Maghull Group, had plans approved by Sefton Council for a big revamp of the tired 1960’s buildings that make up the Square – it must be quite a few – 10 or more? Nothing of any significance has happened. Don’t get me wrong the longer this goes on the more I can understand why no serious investment is being put in – these are rocky days indeed for retail property portfolio holders and Sefton Council may be about to learn that too.

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