Un­ex­pected item Shop bought by coun­cil – but won’t re­veal price tag

Gloucestershire Echo - - NEWS - By ROBIN JENK­INS

CHEL­TENHAM Bor­ough Coun­cil has re­fused to say how much pub­lic money it spent on buy­ing the free­hold to land Sains­bury’s is on in Pri­ors Road, Chel­tenham.

On Tues­day the author­ity an­nounced it had com­pleted the pur­chase on Mon­day as an in­vest­ment that would help make it more fi­nan­cially sus­tain­able at a time when it is be­ing given less money by the Gov­ern­ment.

The coun­cil claimed the deal, which it said would see the site re­main­ing as a su­per­mar­ket, sup­ported the lo­cal econ­omy.

But it did not make it clear how that would be the case and how it would make money as a re­sult of the pur­chase.

The Glouces­ter­shire Echo put var­i­ous ques­tions to the coun­cil, in­clud­ing one ask­ing how much money it had paid for the land and who the seller had been.

In re­sponse, the coun­cil’s spokes­woman said: “The fi­nan­cial de­tails (in­clud­ing pur­chase price) are sub­ject to a con­fi­den­tial­ity agree­ment be­tween the bor­ough coun­cil and the seller.”

She added that she could not re­veal who the seller had been as that was con­fi­den­tial too.

But she sought to clar­ify why the coun­cil buy­ing the land would help it make money and sup­port the lo­cal econ­omy.

She said: “Sains­bury’s will pay rent to Chel­tenham Bor­ough Coun­cil as land­lords for use of the site - this is why it is a good in­vest­ment op­por­tu­nity.

“That in­vest­ment boosts the coun­cil’s prop­erty port­fo­lio.

“In 2010/11, our rev­enue sup­port grant was £1,118,206 and in 2019/20, it will be zero. This is a sub­stan­tial loss in fund­ing.

“To en­able us to con­tinue to in­vest in front line ser­vices and serve lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties, we need to be­come fi­nan­cially self-suf­fi­cient.

“By in­vest­ing, we are en­abling the coun­cil to find ways of fund­ing its ser­vices now and in the fu­ture. This is com­mon prac­tice across lo­cal au­thor­i­ties.”

The Echo has sub­mit­ted a Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion Act re­quest to the coun­cil in an at­tempt to dis­cover how much it paid for the Sains­bury’s site.

We have ap­proached Sains­bury’s for com­ment but it has yet to re­spond.

At the time of pur­chase, Coun­cil­lor Rowena Hay (LD, Oak­ley), the author­ity’s cab­i­net mem­ber for fi­nance, said: ‘’The pur­chase will con­trib­ute to­wards mak­ing the author­ity more fi­nan­cially sus­tain­able at a time when gov­ern­ment fund­ing is di­min­ish­ing to con­tinue to in­vest in front line ser­vices and com­mu­nity de­vel­op­ment.

“Ac­quir­ing Sains­bury’s, to­gether with the re­cent pur­chase of El­len­bor­ough House, high­lights the coun­cil’s com­mer­cial as­pi­ra­tions. Ne­go­ti­a­tions have taken al­most a year and I am pleased that we are at the point of com­ple­tion.

‘’This in­vest­ment also demon­strates the com­mit­ment the coun­cil has in the strength of Chel­tenham’s cur­rent and fu­ture eco­nomic prospects.’’

Paul Jones, the coun­cil’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor for fi­nance and as­sets, said: “The tax­pay­ers of Chel­tenham can be as­sured that sig­nif­i­cant due dili­gence and ne­go­ti­a­tions went into this ac­qui­si­tion, which com­ple­ments our al­ready well bal­anced and di­ver­si­fied prop­erty in­vest­ment port­fo­lio.

‘’The net in­come from our prop­erty in­vest­ment port­fo­lio amounts to £1.6m per an­num and is pro­jected to rise to £1.8m by 2022/23.

“This source of in­come is crit­i­cal to fund­ing the val­ued ser­vices pro­vided by the bor­ough coun­cil to its res­i­dents and re­places the gov­ern­ment fund­ing that we once re­lied upon.”

The su­per­mar­ket in Pri­ors Road com­prises ap­prox­i­mately 44,500 sq ft, 187 park­ing spa­ces and a six pump petrol sta­tion, on a four acre site.

It opened in Oc­to­ber 2006 on part of the old GCHQ Oak­ley site and is the only large-scale su­per­mar­ket on the east­ern side of Chel­tenham. robin.jenk­[email protected]­plc.com

This in­vest­ment also demon­strates the com­mit­ment the coun­cil has in the strength of Chel­tenham’s cur­rent and fu­ture eco­nomic prospects.

Rowena Hay

Sains­bury’s in Oak­ley has been bought by Chel­tenham Bor­ough Coun­cil

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