Businesses set to benefit from council's Sovereign Centre deal?
PUBLISHED: 07:38 24 August 2018 | UPDATED: 07:38 24 August 2018
A multi-million-pound deal which saw North Somerset Council take control of Weston-super-Mare’s Sovereign Shopping Centre has been welcomed by a town centre business boss.
Paul Batts, chairman of Weston Business Improvement District (BID), believes the £21million agreement between the authority and Legal & General to buy the shopping centre is a positive move for town centre traders.
The council, which is struggling with declining funding from Government, hopes to make more than £1million a year from the deal, and the BID chairman believes the council’s ‘vested interest’ in the retail complex’s success will have a ripple effect for businesses across the town centre.
Mr Batts admitted the move has ‘divided’ business owners, but he believes it makes sense for the council and the town.
He said: “You can see the long-term plan as councils all over the country lose revenue from the Government and councils need to find their own revenue streams.
“Given a choice, would you rather the Sovereign (Shopping) Centre was owned by the council or by some hedge fund in London which doesn’t care?
“You’d probably say it is better being run locally, rather than by a portfolio which might lose interest in a few years and just sees it as numbers on a balance sheet.
“Long-term, it has to be better for Weston. The council has a vested interest in making the shopping centre work.”
Progress with the former BHS and TJ Hughes buildings, both of which have been vacant for years, was also welcomed by Mr Batts.
B&M Bargains will fill the BHS building soon, and TJ Hughes owner Dove Properties has secured planning permission for a redevelopment including ground-floor retail space with flats above.
He said: “The last thing we want is empty spaces because it creates the wrong atmosphere, and any business is better than a vacant unit.
“In an ideal world, we’d all want a John Lewis or something similar, but I don’t think that is going to happen, but what we want is less and less empty units.
“The BHS and TJ Hughes buildings are key units and it will be great to see them put to use.
“B&M will be a good addition to the town centre.
“It’s nice to see the unit being used and hopefully, now the plans have been approved for TJ Hughes, we will see some retail use on the bottom floor there.”