Eden to ventureinto commercialproperty market?

Date: Friday 15th September 2017

EDEN Council is remaining tight-lipped about a potential plunge into the commercial property market.

Retail developments such as the town’s Angel Square shopping area, which is home to Costa, Boots, WH Smith and Dorothy Perkins, among others, are believed to be on the council’s radar.

Councillors last week discussed the issue of property acquisition after receiving a report written by Matthew Neal, the council’s deputy chief executive, whose role includes responsibility for land and property.

The Herald had to leave the council chamber after a proposal for its reporter to stay for the discussion was rejected by the Tory majority.

Of the 38-member authority, 26 councillors, including some but not all Liberal Democrats and Independents, voted for the newspaper to leave the meeting on the grounds that the discussion was commercially sensitive.

Mike Slee (Con, Askham), who holds the commercial services portfolio on the council’s controlling executive, confirmed that it is looking at “investing in commercial or residential properties” to help generate additional income to run services.

He said: “As part of the commercial plan’s ambitions, the council is seeking to examine whether to invest in commercial or residential properties to generate additional income to protect the services residents value.

“The council is looking at various options to take forward this commercial approach, including creation of business units to rent to encourage local companies to expand or to attract new companies to the area.”

Mr. Slee pledged that the council would always do “due diligence” when looking at the viability of a commercial project.

In March, the council agreed a three-year commercial plan with the aim of generating an extra £1 million a year. The council said it needed to be become more self-sufficient because of uncertainty over local authority financing.

By 2020-21, the council faces a significant funding gap between what money it brings in and what it spends. The gap will widen by more than £1 million, potentially putting some services at risk.