CHORLEY Council has been given the green light to buy the £20m town centre Market Walk shopping precinct.
The ambitious plans got the go ahead at a special meeting of the council on Monday night.
Councillors voted 25 in favour, 18 against and one abstention. The opposition Conservative group on the authority called for a public referendum on the issue and say residents have not been consulted.
The decision was made following a recommendation from an all-party steering group, chaired by council leader Councillor Alistair Bradley, which has been looking into the feasibility of buying the key site since it was put on the market by its current owners Orchard Street Investments back in September. Councillor Bradley said: “We believe we can’t miss this opportunity to bring such an important town centre asset under local control.It’s chance to invest in a profitable enterprise in which we already have a vested interest. It means that we can look at the redevelopment of the town centre as a whole, rather than the piecemeal way we’ve had to do in the past.
“It means that we have the flexibility to attract new retailers into the town, and it means that we will have an income from the shop rentals. I accept that with any opportunity comes risk and that this is a major investment which is why we’ve done such detailed investigations and sought expert advice. But it’s about managing and minimising the risk and putting controls and safeguards in place.
“Market Walk is a successful going concern and will bring in funds which can be used to invest in the town centre or in council services to benefit residents.”
Councillor Bradley added: “Our vision is to have a strong local economy with a thriving town centre and we’ve already done a lot to support local businesses, create new jobs and help boost trade.”
There are 35 units available to rent most of which have tenants, many of them national retailers.
Just four units are currently empty.