Haywards Heath’s major shopping centre could be bought by Mid Sussex District Council.
Friends Provident Life currently holds the head lease for The Orchards Shopping Centre, which comprises around 40 retail units, cafes, a fitness suite, around 30 private dwelling flats on the first floor, and a 425 space car park.
But an opportunity has arisen for the council to buy back the lease as it already owns the freehold of the land where the Orchards is based, according to a report due to be discussed by MSDC’s Cabinet on Monday.
This move would provide benefits from unifying the interests of the leaseholder and freeholder into one ownership, officers said.
Owning the shopping centre could also provide the council with an extra revenue stream as it looks to become financially independent, and ‘improve the economic wellbeing of the district’.
The Cabinet will be asked to indicate its support for acquiring the centre through a bidding process, while Full Council would then be asked to agree to the proposals at its next meeting.
The centre’s major tenants are Marks & Spencer, Next, and Superdrug.
According to officers: “Merging the council’s interests will bring added value to the investment portfolio, and allow the council to attract investment funding into the centre to provide an improved retail and leisure offer and bring new shops and restaurants in to the town.”
The council has already hired professional services companies to report on the purchase and the bidding process. Friends Provident Life’s head lease runs until 31 October 2081.
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