North Devon Council purchases Green Lanes
12 November 2021
North Devon Council is proud to announce that it has purchased Green Lanes Shopping Centre in Barnstaple.
North Devon Council’s corporate plan sets out its priorities for the future which include:
- Becoming financially self sufficient
- Planning for the future of North Devon
To help support these aims, the council has adopted a commercial strategy where it commits to having a more commercial approach and sets a target of £0.5m additional income by 2023.
Our commercial vision is:
“To become an enterprising and commercially focused council which staff are proud to work for and which others want to work with. We will use our assets, skills and infrastructure to shape and improve public services and enable economic growth in the district.
“We shall generate significant levels of new income for the council working towards the objective of enabling it to become financially sustainable by 2023/24.”
The council has also worked hard with partners and stakeholders to draw up plans for the regeneration of Barnstaple and has already secured over £6.5m in government funding for its Future High Streets project to enhance and regenerate the cultural core of the town around the Pannier Market and Butcher’s Row. This was topped up with another £4.5m of council money to ensure the project is delivered to the highest standards.
Our vision for Barnstaple is:
“We will restore and strengthen Barnstaple’s status as the heart of civic, commercial, educational, cultural and community life in North Devon in the mid 21st century. It needs to be resilient in the face of the challenges presented by the digital economy and the attractions of competing locations.
“We will establish a sustainable core of high quality retail at the heart of the town, and encourage diversification by regenerating and repurposing what are now struggling secondary locations.”
The purchase will complement the investment being made through the Future High Streets Fund project, giving active frontages along Joy Street and Boutport Street. It is a natural extension to what we already have planned.
The council’s purchase puts the centre in public hands. The council has a vested interest to invest in and improve the centre to ensure that it plays its part in creating a vibrant town centre. Whilst the council does wish to make a return on its investment, the purchase is more about securing and improving the town centre.
How will it be funded?
The acquisition will be funded through the Public Works Loans Board which offers favourable interest rates on loans for local government projects. Revenue income from the shopping centre rentals and car park income will pay for the loan costs and surplus funds will be re-invested back into the centre and other regeneration projects within the District.
What sort of a state is the building in?
An external condition survey of the building concluded that there is no real evidence of significant defects to the structure of the property. Over the next five years around £1.5m will be needed to carry out maintenance and repairs which was reflected in the bid.
Will it carry on being retail?
We are already working hard on attracting new tenants to vacant units. We are confident that we can provide opportunities for local and national companies to set up retail businesses in Barnstaple and will also be exploring alternative uses that complement the retail uses, create footfall and fit in with our commitment to creating a vibrant town centre.
Will it make a profit and what will that be used for?
Yes we are anticipating a profit which helps us towards our aim of becoming financially self-sufficient. Cuts have led to our budget shrinking by around 40% in the last ten years. Next year alone, we have a £0.5m gap in our budget. We have made some cuts in services but that is not a path we want to continue down. The profit from this venture will help us continue to provide high quality services to our customers.
How will the centre be managed?
The Property and Regeneration Teams at North Devon Council will be taking an active role in the strategic management of Green Lanes. The Centre Manager, Craig Bulley, and his team will remain in place to support the centre’s tenants and shoppers.
Shopping centres are a specialist type of property asset, they are ‘live’ assets which frequently change on a number of levels. In order to effectively and efficiently manage the centre on a day to day basis, the council will be supported by a specialist property management and investment company called Praxis.
Praxis manage their own portfolio and well as assets for another local authority. They manage a number of shopping centres throughout the UK which are similar in size and context to Green Lanes.
Over the coming weeks, council officers, Praxis and the centre management team will be in touch with the tenants to fully inform them of the council’s commitment to the centre and advise them on the points of contact as the council take ownership of Green Lanes.
Who else was involved in the process?
Knight Frank acted for North Devon Council on the acquisition of the property and Savills acted for the vendor.
Praxis will also be working with the council to creatively market units which are currently vacant. We are looking to support new and local businesses, as well as regional and national retailers to increase the vitality of the centre. The council intends to apply a very personable and flexible approach, to promote the potential of the centre through a variety of different uses. Much of our philosophy can been seen by our commitment to and the success of Butchers Row, which has been instrumental to the Future High Street Fund Scheme and supporting the regeneration of the town centre as a whole.
Leader of the council Cllr David Worden says: “I’m thrilled to have been given this once in a lifetime opportunity to take on the running of such an important asset. Green Lanes is such a huge part of our town centre. With retail struggling following Covid, we want to future-proof the town centre and make it more of a ‘destination’ that will draw more people in.”
Lead Member for Economy and Regeneration Cllr Malcolm Prowse says: “This is a fantastic opportunity for us to really take control of our town centre. It will perfectly complement the Future High Streets project and the two schemes together will bring such a huge boost to the town and help us shape it around what our community needs.”
Lead Member for Commercialisation Cllr Ian Roome says: “This is a really bold move that demonstrates that we are serious about making investments that don’t just help us survive as an authority but also provide benefits for the local community. I’m proud that this council is willing to make brave, commercial decisions that is a new concept to a lot of us but shows how dynamic and agile we have become in the face of budget cuts.