The company that owns the Pendle Rise shopping center in Nelson town center came under fire at a Borough Council meeting as councilors approved a bid to buy the site through a compulsory purchase order .
Pendle Council’s influential Policy and Resources Committee has agreed to move to issuing a mandatory buy order to buy Pendle Rise from owner, Future Properties Ltd.
An adviser, a lawyer, warned that the council should be “at the top of our game” for the potential legal challenge ahead and that the company that owns Pendle Rise is likely to retaliate. He also claimed the owner obstructed communications and caused confusion about Pendle Rise’s liability.
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The Nelson site could be redeveloped with new retail, parking and improved public spaces to support the wider regeneration of the town, as previously reported.
The proposal will have to be submitted to the government for approval. Any organization or interested person may make a representation before a final decision is made. If the mandatory purchase order is given the green light, Pendle Council will then work with joint venture development partner, Brookhouse Group Ltd, to regenerate the site.
Pendle Council received government funding of £25 million under the Nelson Town Deal. Just over £9million has been earmarked for a Revitalized Nelson project, which aims to bring vacant and underused buildings in the town center back into use. The cost of purchasing Pendle Rise will be covered by this fund, the board said.
The Future Properties Ltd criticism came during the last Policy & Resources meeting. But advisers and officers have also stressed that they would still prefer to reach a voluntary agreement with the owners, if possible.
Tory Councilor David Cockburn-Price said: ‘The mandatory order form is the next step. I think all the recommendations are valid. Let’s move on and make things happen. There are a series of options and the legal process to follow.
He said potential risks, such as the borough council having to cover all costs related to the gap between rental income from store tenants and the expenses needed for Pendle Rise, had been taken into account.
Julie Whittaker, an official working on joint ventures with private partners, said: ‘Options are still being considered, such as holding costs and how long it would take to relocate tenants there. All the pros and cons. We want to be sure of the best options.
Labor Councilor Zafar Ali said: ‘This is a historic item for this council, given Pendle Rise’s years of decline and the impact it has had on the city centre.
“I was born and raised in Nelson. As a child, I delivered newspapers to a store around the corner from Pendle Rise. Seeing the decline over the years has been heartbreaking. People have been coming to us for months about the state of Pendle Rise.
“However, there will be another side to this. There will be opinions from Pendle Rise owners, who will no doubt disagree with this situation. As lawyers, it is important that we are at the top of our game. Are our reasons for requesting the order, such as the mall becoming obsolete and occupancy levels, sufficient? Are our reasons deep enough?
Coun Ali added, “There is a lot of background information about our relationship with the owners of Pendle Rise. We tried various approaches with the owners, but they did not entertain us. This has been virtually impossible with some other avenues and there is a lot of history with legal battles over unpaid rates. With different companies, there were hesitations in terms of responsibility.
Ms Whittaker replied: ‘An explanatory memorandum is being prepared by someone experienced with other mandatory purchase orders. We have also hired a lawyer who has worked in these areas. It examines the reasons, and there may be changes or additional information.
“We met with a lawyer earlier this week and he made a series of suggestions. We think there are still a few things we can add to the deal.
Councilor Ali added: “We have until 2026 to implement the Nelson Town Deal. Hopefully it will be a successful trip and this will be part of it.
Lib-Dem Coun David Whipp had some concerns that previous major projects in downtown Nelson had not created the momentum hoped for. He mentioned earlier main street and cobblestone improvements and office developments, such as No. 1 Market Street.
Shopping habits had fundamentally changed and he urged caution in relying on retail to revive Nelson. Other elements had to be considered as part of the mix, including housing. Future Properties Ltd has defended its conduct in recent months. He said Pendle Rise’s valuation was fair and the company was open to “realistic discussions” with the board or other potential buyers.
He also questioned Pendle Council’s decision to close the Admirals Place indoor market in Pendle Rise, where a number of businesses had been trading.
Future Properties recently sold land adjoining McDonald’s for a drive-thru restaurant. He also said he has attracted other retailers to Pendle Rise and is involved in ongoing talks. Current retailers include Boots, Wilko, Savers and Greggs as well as a number of independents. He was also interested in the Phoenix Chambers office building in Pendle Rise from developers, he said.
Future Properties has been approached to comment on the latest development.