Council eyeing more multi-million-pound investments as it confirms shopping centre deal

Weston's Sovereign Centre.

Weston's Sovereign Centre. - Credit: Archant

North Somerset Council has confirmed it has taken control over a shopping centre in Weston – but it is also looking for potential multi-million-pound investments elsewhere in the district.

Weston's Sovereign Centre.

Weston's Sovereign Centre. - Credit: Archant

The Times reported in April how the authority was planning to lease the Sovereign Shopping Centre for 35 years before becoming the owner outright.

On Monday, it was confirmed Legal & General bought the centre for £21million, and would lease it to the authority for £717,698 a year.

The council expects to receive £1.1million a year from the rental income, which will be added to the £225,000 profit it will get from North Worle District Centre, also in Weston.

Councillor David Pasley, executive member responsible for asset management, told the Times: “This is not a Weston-centric investment strategy. This is for the whole of North Somerset.

Weston's Sovereign Centre.

Weston's Sovereign Centre. - Credit: Archant

“I cannot go into details, but we are considering all kinds of investments or projects which come before us.”

The council has not yet found a project in Portishead, Clevedon or Nailsea which would generate the same kind of revenue as the Weston retail centres, and Cllr Pasley said any discussions would be kept secret because they are commercially sensitive.

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The deals made so far have been criticised by some councillors who say retail is a risky investment. New Look is among the big name retailers to have recently closed stores, including one in Clevedon.

However, Cllr Pasley said much of the income will come from the Sovereign Centre’s 876-space car park, and the authority is open to the possibility of leisure and entertainment providers filling some of the vacant units.

The investment deals are perceived as being crucial to the council’s financial future, as it has slashed £90million from its budget in the past eight years and expects even more cuts will follow.

It believes the centre could be worth much more than £21million by the time it comes into the council’s ownership.

Cllr Pasley said: “In the face of diminishing Government funding and cut-backs, we have to take big steps to replace the funding we depend upon to continue essential public services.

“As the traditional high street continues to change, the council is making a major commitment of confidence in our local economy, community and business sectors.”