Following a Medway Council Cabinet meeting held behind closed doors on Tuesday 12 February, Medway Council is set to spend £45m purchasing the lease to the Pentagon Centre in Chatham.
Following an approach from the current leaseholders of the building, Medway Council believe this purchase represents a good commercial investment. It is also claimed the purchase will allow the council to help shape the future redevelopment of Chatham town centre.
The plan was discussed in a private meeting on Tuesday and is coming to light now as Medway Council have rather cleverly revealed full information about the potential purchase as part of the agenda for next week’s budget meeting. The £45m figure is labelled as commercially sensitive in these documents, so it seems unlikely that it was intended to be put into the public domain in this manner.
The full proposal to add this figure to the capital budget will be discussed as the full Medway Council meeting on 21 February, though the plans seem certain to be approved.
The move comes as councils across the UK are buying struggling shopping centres as part of regeneration efforts. What Medway Council taking control of the Pentagon Centre means for Chatham and Medway as a whole remains to be seen.
Update 14 Feb: Medway Council have been in touch with a statement from Cllr Alan Jarrett, Leader of the council, about the proposed purchase:
“The proposal to acquire the Pentagon Centre and other included freehold properties presents a really exciting opportunity to bring forward more major improvements for Chatham town centre.
“In recent years, the town centre has benefitted from significant improvements including the new waterfront bus station, enhanced public space including new seating in the town centre, the widening of pedestrian areas which have opened up the journey from the railway station to the town centre and river walkway, and investment with Network Rail at Chatham railway station. We have some other proposed major projects in the pipeline including new housing at Whiffens Avenue and Chatham Waterfront, as well as a development at Queens Street on The Brook.
“These potential acquisitions will enable us to piece together the jigsaw of these different projects to plan for a vibrant waterfront city centre for Medway. It would give us a real opportunity to create a blue print for a thriving Chatham where we can directly shape, invest in and improve what’s on offer in the town centre be it for retail, leisure, business or residential.
“This investment makes sound financial sense with the opportunity to generate an annual income that can be ploughed back to support council finances and services for Medway residents.
“We need to take a very long term view for this investment but it would undoubtedly be a game changer for Chatham bringing significant benefits to local residents and creating a thriving centre for Medway.“
What do you think? Is spending £45m on a shopping centre a good investment for Medway Council? What can be done to turn around Chatham town centre? Let us know in the comments, on Facebook, or on Twitter.