Chorley's Market Walk falls in value - but council confident extension will bring benefits
Chorley’s Market Walk shopping centre has seen almost £2m wiped off its official value in the space of a year.
The facility – which is owned by Chorley Council – dropped in worth from £20.4m to £18.5m between 2017/18 and 2018/19, according to the authority’s independent valuers.
But their assessment did not take into account the potential impact of the extension to the centre which is currently being built and is due to open before Christmas.
A meeting of the council’s governance committee heard that the revaluation was the result of “a slow-down in the retail industry” and a number of outstanding rent reviews with tenants.
James Thomson, the authority’s deputy finance boss, told members that the fall in value would “not have an effect on the council taxpayer”, because there are no plans to sell the site.
Chief Executive Gary Hall added that the valuers had been “a bit pessimistic about the rental [projections]”.
“We bought the asset so that we could try to influence what went on in the town centre and that’s probably part of the reason Chorley continues to do fairly well,” he said.
“There are still some challenges around retail – and the shape and nature of it continues to change.”
The £15m extension will include an M&S Foodhall and six-screen cinema. The restaurant chain Loungers has publicly committed to taking one of the eight units in the new building, but negotiations are ongoing.
Responding to news of the revaluation of the existing building, deputy leader of the Labour-run authority, Peter Wilson, said such figures always “fluctuate”.
“Once the shopping centre extension is complete and the new businesses are in there, that might affect the valuation positively.
“It’s also worth remembering the existing shopping centre generates us a profit of circa £1 million per year, which goes towards council services – and over the five years we have owned it, that is £5 million that has been reinvested in the borough,” Cllr Wilson added.
But Conservative opposition group leader Martin Boardman said the council should have invested in the current centre rather than ploughing money into an expensive extension.
“We should have been trying to fill all the units in there and buck the national trend that way.
“Retail is struggling and most companies will be looking for rent reductions – and that will continue over the next few years.
“If the extension opens at the current level of occupancy, it won’t break even,” Cllr Boardman warned.
Papers presented as part of Chorley Council’s budget earlier this year forecast a profit of £300,000 per year from the extension.
Council leader Alistair Bradley said he was confident in the centre’s future success.
“We have the cinema and M&S Foodhall moving in shortly and we are hoping to announce the news of another exciting business for the centre soon. That would mean the extension will be making a profit on opening.
“We have been listening to what people have said they want to see and we think the news will be popular with residents.”