The Head of North Worcestershire Economic Development and Regeneration (NWEDR) introduced the Market Hall Site Redevelopment report for Members consideration. The report highlighted the three main aspects of the current position; the legal agreement with the Hinton Group, the delivery options and the next steps for Phase 2 of the site.
Members were informed that since completing phase 1, Hinton Group had been working to deliver a viable scheme for Phase 2 of the site. However, Phase 2 had not been delivered for a number of reasons. It was believed that retail was not necessarily the route to go down and the Head of NWEDR suggested that a change in policy usage in order to increase the footfall may be required. Full details were included within the report together with steps which could be taken to provide “meanwhile” uses for the site in the interim period.
Given the failure of the private sector developer to deliver a viable scheme, there were now a number of delivery options open for consideration and which were detailed within the report. There were as follows:
· Option A - Direct delivery of a redevelopment scheme by the Council
· Option B – Development agreement
· Option C – Joint Venture; and
· Option D – Do nothing.
Members were informed that officers would undertake a soft market testing exercise in order to consider the best options for improvements of the former Market Hall site redevelopment in Bromsgrove. The outcome and key findings of the soft market testing exercise would be presented to Cabinet and Council at a future meeting.
In the ensuing debate, Members highlighted the following points:
· It was recognised that, Bromsgrove Town Centre (as were many high streets across the country) was struggling. However, having further retailers was not necessary the right solution for regeneration. It was suggested that the Council could look at potential leisure facilities/ multi complex for the residents of Bromsgrove. Members were informed that this option had been outlined in the report;
· With regard to the Waitrose contract, it was clarified that there were restrictive covenants in favour of Waitrose which expired in February 2021. However, it was confirmed that this would not cause a significant issue in terms of delivery options going forward;
· Members considered that with hindsight, the Hinton Group had probably not been the best option to go with;
· Members were informed that any developers would normally seek 20% return on cost, however, the Council could negotiate this;
· The land value of the site could not be confirmed;
· Councillor K. Taylor stated that the Hinton Group was seen as the best option at the time;
· Discussions took place around the cost associated with the site and around the retained deposit, which it was anticipated would cover those costs;
· Members expressed concernsregarding the previous development, as they had been mindful that whilst the decision had appeared to be the right one at the time, with hindsight other areas could have been considered more fully.
· Members were keen that the Council considered the option of retained ownership of the site or looked at a joint venture;
· Members felt it was prudent that the Council set out its future visions for the site;
· Members acknowledged that Bromsgrove Town Centre needed regeneration for local residents.
The Executive Director for Finance and Resources clarified that as part of the soft market testing the Council would look at various schemes that would be viable, sustainable and beneficial for the local residents of Bromsgrove.
The Board requested that an update on the findings in respect of the soft market testing exercise for Bromsgrove Market Site Redevelopment be presented at a future meeting of the Board.
a) that the Market Hall Site Redevelopment – Phase 2 report be noted; and
b) that any future reports on the site be pre-scrutinised by the Board prior to consideration by Cabinet.