'Council policies keeping shop unit empty'By Alan Bunce
April 14, 2010
Council policies are keeping a shop unit empty, according to property expert Fiona Brownfoot.
A 5,000 sq ft unit in Meyer House at Chatham Place, West Reading, has been on the market for around five years – three years before it was completed.
But the council has it earmarked for ‘community use’ and according to Brownfoot, retail partner at Hicks Baker which is marketing the units for developer Muse, that is making it impossible to find a tenant.
“It’s because most proper community groups don’t want their own premises because of the responsibility and they don’t have the money for the fit-out and to run their own premises.
“Five thousand square feet is huge and when it comes to the bottom line they can’t afford it. We have been trying to make a case for saying ‘we have tried’, but I just think it is a faulty policy they are trying to enforce.”
Two other units, a yoga specialist called Studio 42 and a triathlon equipment retailer called Moti, have been signed up. But Brownfoot said developers need to get back some value and cannot drop the price enough for community groups to afford.
She added: “We have been successful because we have managed to get two other units let and there would be a prospect of getting a further destination retailer in there. But at the end of the day it’s a completed development with a boarded-up retail unit.”
But Councillor Tony Page, who is deputy leader of the council, the local ward councillor and lead member for planning and transport, said the position was a standard one similar to the requirement for The Oracle to provide a unit for the Citizens Advice Bureau.
“I would be opposed to any change of the agreement because a developer or their agent says they are having problems, “ he said. “The developer knew the requirements and this was always part of this development and that remains the position.”
He said any changes made would still mean the community facilities would, in any case, have to be provided elsewhere.