Council pays £10m for shops
Pledge to put Kings Chase at heart of transformation
KINGS Chase shopping centre in Kingswood could be turned into homes and leisure as well as retail after South Gloucestershire Council announced it had bought it for £10million.
It solves the mystery of the “significant” property deal, at the heart of a £25million transformation of the town centre, which the authority has kept under wraps since February because of commercial sensitivity while negotiations concluded.
The purchase of the complex and car park is a major jigsaw piece in the regeneration after the council secured £12.5million from the Government’s Future High Streets Fund on Boxing Day.
It will allow the local authority to explore “innovative new ways to bring vitality to the high street”.
The deal first emerged three months ago as Conservative cabinet members approved £5million from council coffers for the project, on top of the government cash and £7.5million match funding from the West of England Combined Authority in January.
But the details of the “substantial investment”, including the property and the amount of money, were kept from being publicly disclosed until it was finalised, with councillors and officers saying only that it may involve vacant or unused units that will be brought back to life.
The council announced on May 18 that it had bought the shopping centre and car park, which is anchored by Sainsbury’s and Wilko and also includes Boots, Costa, WHSmith and other high street chains.
It said options for redevelopment of the centre, which was identified as a hub for the community for shopping and employment, included “leisure, housing and community services to complement the retail experience”.
A public consultation on the area’s masterplan will take place this summer.
The council said the private sector had not delivered much-needed investment and a planned development did not come forward, so it obtained government funding and a commitment to an additional capital budget to acquire the site and begin a first phase of improvements.
Council leader Councillor Toby Savage said: “I am really excited to be able to confirm that we have completed the purchase of Kings Chase shopping centre and car park, which has been the subject of many months of hard work alongside the development of a masterplan.
“We are extremely ambitious for the future of Kingswood and this acquisition is critical to our ability to deliver something truly transformational.
“Alongside the funding now in place to transform the public realm on Regent Street and with the building work to restore the Whitfield Tabernacle now under way, I look forward to the opportunities this will bring to the community.
“The support from local people and stakeholder groups in Kingswood through the public engagement we have conducted was critical in our success in accessing government funding.
“This collaborative approach has allowed the public sector to intervene where the market is struggling.”
Kingswood’s Tory MP Chris Skidmore said: “I have been a proud advocate for the council’s Future High Streets Fund business case and was delighted to see the Government co-investing in this.
“Seeing the Whitfield Tabernacle alive with building work and now this vital acquisition being concluded presents the start of an exciting future for Kingswood town centre.”
It is understood the local authority bought the complex from Draco Kings Chase Ltd.
By Amanda Cameron,
Local Democracy Reporting Service