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Whitefriars Shopping Centre

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Canterbury City Council to buy half of Whitefriars shopping centre

Whitefriars Shopping Centre

Whitefriars Shopping Centre

Canterbury City Council is planning to purchase half of Whitefriars shopping centre, which has a price tag of at least £90 million.

Members of the full council unanimously decided to go ahead with plans to purchase a 50% stake in the shopping centre, hoping to finalise the deal before the summer.

The decision was made on Thursday at the city’s Guildhall.

Afterwards, council leader Simon Cook said: “It is good that the proposal has the backing of all councillors and was approved unanimously. Everything is now in the lap of our property guys.”

City council chief executive Colin Carmichael has said the deal makes commercial sense and will allow the authority to have a say in the future of Whitefriars.

He said the council’s role would be one of a sleeping partner, with the property firm Henderson managing  the site on a day-to-day basis.

“Whitefriars is the strongest part of the retail area of the city and this purchase will allow us to have an influence over the future of the city centre,” he said.

“There’s also a financial benefit and we expect to make a return year-on-year.”

Lib Dem Michael Dixey, whose Westgate ward covers the city centre, described Canterbury as a “major retail centre”, and said the council would benefit from the Whitefriars purchase.

“I’ve been to Hereford and Glasgow recently and they compare very unfavourably to Canterbury,” Cllr Dixey said.

“Canterbury is almost a different world. This deal is very commercially attractive.”

Conservative Cllr Steve Williams added: “This is a good time to be borrowing the money for a deal like this.

“In terms of retail, Canterbury has bucked the trend nationally and we will be acquiring control over a prime piece of real estate.”

The city council will make the purchase using money borrowed at a low rate. The rental income is expected to cover the loan repayments, with some left over.

Whitefriars houses shops such as Fenwicks, Zara and Tesco and was built on council land in 2005. It was then leased to Land Securities for 250 years.

The firm later sold the lease – half to TH Real Estate and the other half to the Canadian Pension Fund (CPF). Canterbury City Council plans to buy the part owned by CPF.

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