Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Harborough District Council goes into the property business

A striking statement appeared on the Harborough District Council website yesterday:
Harborough District Council and Harborough District Commercial Services Ltd has taken advantage of an exciting investment opportunity to benefit the whole district. 
Land and buildings incorporating two retail units (Tesco and B&M Stores) and residential flats in Market Harborough town centre have been purchased by a private company, owned by the Council, to bring benefits to the business community and wider district and to generate income. 
Harborough District Council has set up a limited company, Harborough District Commercial Services Ltd (HDCS), through which this and future investments will be acquired and managed.  The new company is wholly owned by Harborough District Council. HDCS can make a return on the investment and this will be used to support wider Council services across the district. Many councils are adopting a similar business-like model to generate income and reduce the reliance on grants from the Government.
I am all in favour of municipal enterprise and councils having their own income streams. But they are being rather driven to these sort of speculations because of the savage cuts in central government funding.

Some councils are going to come a cropper doing this, and I hope Harborough isn't one of them.

But there is something else of interest in the statement:
As part of the Council’s drive to support a vibrant economy, Harborough District Commercial Services Ltd is committed to identifying new investment opportunities which benefit residents and businesses. The land at 10 The Commons and 19/21 The Square, Market Harborough presented a particularly strong opportunity as the Council already owns adjoining land – the Commons car park.
Does this mean a major redevelopment of the area is planned?

I have always hoped I would live long enough to see the Tesco on The Square demolished - the setting demands an altogether more substantial and dignified building.

But if  new development consumes the car park, where will the cars go?

A consultants' report a few years ago envisaged a multistorey car park on the old Cattle Market site by Sainsbury's. That sounds too high a price to pay.

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