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Chorley Council investigates buying Market Walk
A major shopping centre has been put for sale with a council entering talks with a view to buying and running it.
Chorley Council is to investigate the feasibility bringing Market Walk retail mall into council ownership.
The arcade has been put up for sale by owners Orchard Street Investments.
Now, the Labour-run council is to set up an all-party steering group to look at the risks and the advantages of buying it, taking into account initial costs and subsequent management of the site.
It is understood the council has entered an exclusive six-week negotiating period with Orchard and committed up to £40,000 on the due diligence process which will need to take place.
No exact figure has been released on the asking price of the centre but it is thought to be in the region of £20million.
Market Walk links the town’s two market places and contains around 30 retail and food outlets.
It is almost fully occupied and contains leading retailers such as Boots, Rymans, Costa, Holland & Barrett, Iceland, EE and Vodafone.
Councillor Peter Wilson, Chorley Council deputy leader and executive member for the town centre, said: “This opportunity has come up and we really could not let it go without at least looking into the possibility of us purchasing it.
“Yes, it would be a major investment for the council, yet it would give us control over a major town centre asset which means we could look at improving the town centre as a whole, rather than in a piecemeal way.
“Just as importantly, if not more so, we would also get an ongoing income stream which could be used to support further development of the town centre or council service for residents.
“We are not entering into any commitment to buy, just into the feasibility.”
On Tuesday, the council approved the first step of the plan which is to set up the all-party steering group chaired by council leader Councillor Alistair Bradley.
Legal investigations will also get under way and the steering group will report any recommendations back to full council for a decision. The Conservative opposition voted against the proposal but later agreed to sit on the panel looking into the scheme.
Their leader, councillor Greg Morgan, said: “Our position is that we don’t believe the council should be a major developer. It’s outside what a local authority like Chorley should be concentrating on.
“We don’t have the commercial experience to do this.”
Orchard Street Investments declined to comment on the talks.
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