Double joy at £1m shopping bonanza

Market Walk
Market Walk
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Chorley’s Market Walk is heading for a magnificent £1m buy-out bonanza.

The shopping precinct, acquired by Chorley Council last November, is set to make a £1m profit in its first year since the takeover.

That is double the predicted figure.

Not only that, three new retailers are moving in. And folk are giving the precinct’s £10m extension proposals - which will attract a flagship retailer, new cinema and create 200 jobs – the overwhelming thumbs up.

The council says the Market Walk income boost is down to more efficient running of the centre and the fact that the majority of the empty units have been let.

Council leader Alistair Bradley said: “Not only are we seeing new shops investing in our town centres, the net income for the council is almost double what we anticipated.

“This is really important because this is what has allowed us to benefit residents across the borough through things such as freezing council tax, reinvesting it into services and funding the work that is looking at options for the Market Walk extension.”

Visitor numbers are also holding steady.

Almost 350,000 shoppers are visiting the 35-unit shopping centre per month despite disruption due to the Flat Iron car park improvements, which are now almost complete.

Three of the four units that were empty when the authority bought the centre are now leased out with interest in the remaining shop as the centre continues to go from strength to strength.

The three new shops are:

* Wild Orchid - a furniture, home accessories and gift store, which opened last week.

* Discount Cards - which is due to open shortly.

* Phones Fresh - which is being re-stocked after opening a few weeks ago.

Councillor Bradley said: “We bought the shopping centre because it would give us more control over what happens in our town centre and so that we can re-invest the profit for residents rather than see it taken out of the borough by wealthy investors.

“We’ve been working hard to improve the shopping centre and get the vacant units filled and less than a year into it we are seeing our efforts pay off.

“We’re really excited by the potential for the centre with the extension proposals now being worked up in more detail after getting a positive response from more than three-quarters of people who took part in the consultation.”

More than 600 people took time to comment on the extension plans that could see up to eight new units.

The vast majority of people (79 per cent) were in support of the plans with keeping Chorley’s unique balance of independent and national retailers and thriving markets an important factor.

“We were really pleased to get such detailed and thoughtful feedback from residents and businesses on the extension plans because this would be a really important development for the town,” said councillor Bradley.

“It was clear people had taken time to digest the plans and then give detailed feedback on the elements they like and those that caused them to question the proposals.

“What was clear is that people really care about the future of the town and we now have a wish-list of retailers that people would like us to attract that we are already working on.”

Malcolm Allen, chairman of Chorley Traders’ Alliance, said: “I said at the time, from a traders’ alliance point of view and personal point of view, it’s good it’s in our local hands.

“We can determine our own town centre and this profit shows it was a wise investment and given the commitment before stage two, if they attract the right retailers, it can be profitable for the taxpayers of Chorley.

“It’s excellent news.”