Council buys The Forum for £15million

The Forum, Horsham. Pic Steve Robards SR1700691 SUS-170120-175930001
The Forum, Horsham. Pic Steve Robards SR1700691 SUS-170120-175930001

A £15million property investment in a key Horsham town centre site has been announcement by the district council today (Tuesday August 1).

Councillors have agreed to purchase The Forum giving the authority direct control of the key strategic site between Sainsbury’s and West Street, which will also allow it to generate income for revenue spending on services.

The commercial space currently has four tenants: TK Maxx, Dunelm, Blacks, and Bensons for Beds.

As part of the deal, Horsham District Council will also acquire ownership of the 472 space Blackhorse Way car park for which it currently pays rent.

Brian Donnelly, cabinet member for finance and assets, said: “As funding for councils from central Government entirely disappears this is both about investing to make money – money to increase future income to support our council services – and about supporting our long held policy of council investment within our district.

“This acquisition gives us control over a major strategic site, one that is a big part of the council’s vision for the town centre.”

Ray Dawe, leader of the council, added: “This is one of the most exciting property acquisitions that the council has made in that it opens up strategic opportunities for Horsham town.

“This acquisition will increase our income stream significantly, whilst allowing us to benefit from any potential capital growth in the future.

“Retail is strong in Horsham, and we benefit from having one of the lowest levels of empty shops in the country.

“Many major retailers are investing in the town which is great news as Horsham continues to grow and as we see an increased population using the town centre shops. Owning the site will help us to now deliver the improvements and actions necessary to strengthen the role and image of the town further, as identified in the Town Centre Vision public consultation that took place recently.”

Councillors gave the go-ahead to purchase the site from clients of Aviva Investors at a council meeting early in July, but the deal could not be made public for reasons of commercially confidentiality until legal completion yesterday (Monday July 31).

According to the council the purchase will deliver an extra income stream of £780,000 a year, provide a long-term opportunity to improve the link between Sainsbury’s and West Street and develop The Forum Piazza, and unlocks a disadvantageous lease on the car park giving the authority the freedom to change or redevelop the car park in the future if necessary.

The extra £15m capital budget will be funded through a range of sources including cash and borrowing.

The Forum is listed as a key opportunity in the council’s town centre vision, with the potential to make better use the plaza and library areas by providing upgraded library and surgery premises and improving through routes to West Street, Worthing Road, and the bus station.

One idea is to develop the northern part of the Sainsbury’s car park to enclose the plaza and make for a ‘pleasant sheltered environment to shop and spend time’.

The vision suggests that larger sized shops could be built to ‘attract missing stores from the town’.

The document continues: “Opportunities to redevelop the car park could include the Sainsbury’s store itself. In this example Sainsbury’s store is relocated westwards next to Worthing Road, at ground floor level, with underground parking and housing built on top of the store to make best use of the whole site.”

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