by mikebell on 6 August, 2018
North Somerset Council has announced that it has bought the Sovereign Centre in Weston today in a private equity deal worth £21 million. Councillor Mike Bell writes: “The idea is that they will invest in the centre, attract new retailers and generate a profit above the costs. We shall see. I am in favour of investments that can generate income, protect services and keep council tax affordable. However, this purchase is risky.
– Retail is a volatile and fast changing market, with traditional retail centres struggling and there is a real risk that vacant units won’t be let and that anchor tenants will be lost – then what?
– This puts the council in control of yet another car park and I don’t consider a near monopoly of parking charges as a positive thing given the council’s record of higher charges and unfair rules.
– There is also a potential conflict of interest now. Why would the council support and encourage independent retailers in places like Meadow Street, Orchard Street or St James Street, when they need to prioritise their own tenants and income at the Sovereign Centre?
– The council has no record in retail and will either have to muddle through or pay outside experts to manage things for them.
“Of course, it could be a brilliant decision, providing the council with an opportunity to invest in retail, attract new businesses and jobs and boost the town centre for us all. It could generate significant surplus income over many years, helping to protect services. It could be a key catalyst in the regeneration of Weston town centre.
“Either way, this was a purchase pushed through by the Conservative majority. Councillors were invited to make an “in principle” decision months ago, with no details on the terms or purchase price. Today, the purchase has been announced and as an opposition leader, I have received no information on the deal agreed. We haven’t even been sent the press release!
“This is typical of a Conservative administration that does what it likes, is accountable to nobody and simply announces decisions to residents, with no explanation, debate or consultation.
“Whatever the outcome, it will be local residents and businesses who will bear the consequences, for good or ill. And we will know to whom to attribute blame or credit in the decades to come.”
Read more about this at the Weston Mercury.