Pendle Rise: Next step recommended for council to buy Nelson shopping centre
Pendle councillors are being asked to approve the next steps towards a legal move aiming to buy a Nelson shopping centre, as part of wider budget and regeneration plans including joint ventures.
Councillors on the borough’s Policy & Resources Committee are being asked this week at a special pre-budget meeting to give approval for the council chief executive, Rose Rouse, to purchase Pendle Rise shopping centre.
The special committee meeting has a long list of topics and plans for the new financial year. All borough councillors will ultimately have to debate and agree the budget in a few weeks.
The move to use a compulsory purchase order for Pendle Rise would also need approval from the Westminster government and is linked to a wider programme of work called the Revitalised Nelson Business Case. This covers different regeneration and economic development plans for Nelson and some surrounding areas, which are earmarked for £25 million from the government-backed Town Deal.
Work on the Pendle Rise shopping centre compulsory purchase order is ongoing, a report for the special Policy & Resources Committee meeting states.
Pendle Council believes at least part of the shopping complex may need to be demolished to create new mixed-use developments perhaps including new homes, public spaces and improvements to travel across the town.
Some councillors have said Pendle Rise is half-empty, no longer suited to modern town centres and that an alleged asking-price in the past was unrealistic.
Over the past 12 months, Future Properties, the private company which owns Pendle Rise, has said it is willing to talk about selling the site to Pendle Council or another buyer, if a price can be agreed. Future Properties says its valuation is fair and was independently assessed by a surveyor.
Future properties has sold the nearby former Pendle Rise multi-storey car park site to McDonald’s for a new drive-through restaurant, which could open later this year. It also says some offices at the nearby Phoenix Chambers could become apartments.
A report this week to Pendle Council’s Policy & Resources Committee states Pendle Rise is a strategically important site and control of it is needed to allow the Nelson revitalisation project to happen.
The shopping centre recommendation is part of a wider update about borough’s finances for day-to-day operations, known as revenue, and big, one-off schemes, known as capital projects, as it prepares to set a new budget for the 2023-24 financial year.
Councils have seen changing funding arrangements over recent years. This has included reductions to traditional funding from Westminster governments and increased bidding for targeted government grants, such as levelling-up or town deal cash.
The alleged rights and wrongs of government funding are often debated at Pendle Council, along with the council’s moves to achieve savings, use of cash reserves and investments.
Pendle Council’s current 2022-23 budget, which runs to the spring, requires a balancing contribution from council cash reserves of over £1million, a report states.
The council also set itself a savings target of £500,000 for the current financial year, with a proportion of £375,000 earmarked for quarter-three of the period.
The committee report states: “This has been achieved through the re-profiling of the capital programme and subsequent reduction in the cost of borrowing, alongside increases in investment income as interest rates rise. Other savings include renewal of a mobile phone contract and holding-back on filling vacant posts at the council.”
Big capital schemes suggested for the new financial year include £1.2million for housing work including the compulsory purchase of empty homes. Over £4million is earmarked for regeneration work including in Nelson, Colne and Brierfield Mill, now called Northlight under a joint venture between the council and Barnfield Construction.
Big capital funds are coming from sources including government levelling-up cash for Colne and the Nelson Town Deal, plus the council’s own cash. Other suggested capital projects include work on playing fields, footpath and roads, new vehicles, leisure facilities and new cemetery space.
In other financial matters, borough councillors are being asked to approve the council writing-off four debts, totalling almost £8,200. The money was owed by dissolved or liquidated companies involved with trade waste collection, a footpath diversion order and cemetery interment.
Following the last Policy & Resources Committee in December, chief executive Rose Rouse, in consultation with the council’s political leader, Conservative Coun Nadeem Ahmed, agreed to defer the receipt of the sale of some land at Lomeshaye to PEARL2 Ltd, a joint venture between the council and Barnfield Construction. The land sale was completed in January this year and a payment of £687,800 has been deferred until no later than December 2023.
This forms part of the council’s capital programme but because the payment is coming within the next 12 months it will not impact on it, a report to the committee states.