Concern over sale of shopping centre

CONCERNS are being raised after it was revealed a major shopping centre built with public and private finance had been put on the market for �30million less than it cost to build.

Laurence Cawley

CONCERNS are being raised after it was revealed a major shopping centre built with public and private finance had been put on the market for �30million less than it cost to build.

The �100million Arc shopping centre opened less than a year ago in Bury St Edmunds and has quickly become an established part of the town centre.

However, it yesterday emerged that the centre, owned by Delancey on a 150-year lease from St Edmundsbury Borough Council, had been put up for sale with a �70million guide price.

The figure is about �30million less than the overall cost of building the complex, though the sale does not include the flats above some of the shops and some other ancillary buildings.

A spokesman for Delancey, the parent company of development firm Centros, confirmed the site was for sale but would not comment as to the reasons why.

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Some in the town have voiced their shock that the centre should be put up for sale so soon after it was opened and others voiced their concerns about pledges made by the council and Centros, which built the centre, about expanding the link at Market Thoroughfare between the old and new parts of the town centre.

The building is being sold by London-based property firm Jones Lang LaSalle on behalf of Delancey, which funded the project, and cites Debenhams as the site's “anchor tenant”.

A spokeswoman for the borough council, which owns the land on which the Arc is built, said it did not make any difference to the authority who owned the lease because the council would get its rental income regardless.

That income is this year expected to be �194,000.

But opposition leader David Nettleton, of the LLINK group, said he was concerned what the sale might mean for agreements already made over expanding the Market Thoroughfare.

He said: “It is interesting it is going for �70million and so soon after it opened. The question here is what happens to the Market Thoroughfare link and other knock-on agreements? They will probably transfer but the problem is that legal agreements and promises can be watered down and become removed as things pass through hands.”

Chrissy Harrod, chairman of Bury St Edmunds Town Centre Management and manager of Cornhill Walk Shopping Centre, urged the council to “do everything in its power” to make sure the wider link is delivered but said commercial real estate changed hands all the time.

She said: “I don't think we should have any concerns about it being sold because whoever takes it on will want it to be a success.”