STOCKTON-on-Tees Borough Council has completed the £7million acquisition of Wellington Square shopping centre as it steps up its town centres fightback.
The move was agreed at a full Council meeting in December as part of the authority’s £30million plan to step in and take control of key sites and assets in the Borough’s town centres.
Details had to remain confidential at the time due to the commercial negotiations but contracts have been exchanged and the deal was completed on Friday (May 3).
Knight Frank, which runs the Castlegate Shopping Centre, has been brought in to manage Wellington Square on the Council’s behalf.
Councillor Nigel Cooke, the Council’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Housing, said: “We said we’d be taking advantage of opportunities to buy key town centre sites and assets and that’s exactly what we’re doing.
“It was essential that we were able to respect commercial confidentiality throughout these negotiations and I’m delighted we’re now in a position to confirm that we’ve completed the purchase of this asset, as agreed by Council in December.
“Whilst owning Wellington Square will actually make us money that’s not why we’re doing it. We’re doing it as part of our bigger plan to support our town centres and get on with changing them for the better.
“But our message to traders is that it’s very much business as usual. We’ve brought in Knight Frank, who run the Castlegate centre, and they’ll be running Wellington Square for us.
“As well as having vast experience and expertise in the sector, it makes sense to have the same operator running both of Stockton’s main shopping centres.”
Peter Bowden, Partner at Knight Frank, added: “This is an exciting time for Stockton. The acquisition of Wellington Square demonstrates the council’s commitment to enhance the town and boost the economy, providing an improved experience for businesses and residents. Knight Frank are delighted to be part of the project.”
The deal for Wellington Square, which has 200,000 sq ft of commercial floor space across 50 units, includes the section of the Debenhams store’s ground floor which fronts onto Wellington Square. The Council is seeking a meeting with the owner of the rest of the building to discuss options for its re-use following its expected closure next year.
But the deal does not include the former Marks and Spencer store, which has always been under separate ownership, though the Council continues to work with the Danish company which owns the building to explore options to bring it back into use.
Meanwhile, the Council is preparing a planning application to demolish the former Glam and Post Office buildings in Stockton High Street and redevelop the site as a ‘pocket park’ alongside some car parking.
The Council is also bidding to the Government’s £675million Future High Streets Fund on behalf of both Stockton and Yarm, after the Government confirmed it will welcome funding bids from two town centres.
And there’s strong hope that the bids will be successful after Northern Powerhouse Minister, Jake Berry MP, chose to visit Stockton High Street within weeks of launching the Fund and urged bidders to look to Stockton for inspiration.
If successful, the additional funds would complement the £30million pledged for town centres by the Council and £20million secured from Tees Valley Combined Authority’s Investment Plan.