I heard on the Brierley Hill grapevine yesterday that Greggs is to pull out of the Moor Centre, and that Superdrug are considering a move too.
This appears to be another in a long line of blows to the centre.
Of course there are some things the Moor Centre owners have no control over – such as the closure of Woolworths and Peacocks.
But earlier this year Boots announced they were moving from their unit and establishing a presence in Albion Street.
The Post Office has moved onto the High Street. One reason given was that they couldn’t persuade the owners to give them a longer term lease.
Then the former bowling alley, long on the market as available for short term rent, is now being marketed for sale.
The Old New Inn, part of the conservation area, remains empty and boarded up. The Red Lion is on the market.
So what is going on?
The baseline study for Brierley Hill’s Area Action Plan published in November 2009, extracts of which are given below, described the then intentions of the owners, Brierley Hill Estates, to develop a Tesco store on the site together with housing. Land assembly, essential for the success of the scheme, was taking place.
Since then Tesco have changed their strategy and the Moor Centre proposal fell through two years ago. Hence the bowling alley appearing to be for sale.
It would seem that the plan may still be to redevelop the Moor Centre with a smaller scheme (hence the refusal to offer longer term leases), and to dispose of the other buildings in the area.
However, whilst all of this is going on Brierley Hill continues to suffer.
The Brierley Hill Area Action Plan baseline evidence on the Moor Centre – November 2009:
16.9 This site currently houses the Moor Centre (shopping centre), shops and other A2-A5 premises on the High Street frontage, a Mecca Bingo, Megabowl and surface level car parking
16.10 A representation was received at Issues and Options stage on behalf of Brierley Hill Estates Limited who own this site. The representation sought the recognition and allocation of this site for 6,500m2 gross comparison retail, 10,000m2 gross convenience retail, housing, leisure and multi-level car parking. A supplementary representation was subsequently received confirming the deliverability of this allocation and the site owners commitment to it. The following points were made within that representation:
- Brierley Hill Estates Limited have owned the centre for 3 years, and have invested their own cash, to improve the retail offer in the centre. This includes the investment of over £250,000 to facilitate the introduction of a new Woolworths store to anchor the northeast corner of the centre.
- Brierley Hill Estates Limited believe that an extension to the Moor Centre is economically viable and deliverable in the short term and that it will greatly improve the shopping facilities and the regeneration of Brierley Hill town centre.
- Brierley Hill Estates Limited own a large part of the site on which the extension would be developed. They require only 2 other freehold ownerships in order to acquire a site large enough for a substantial redevelopment and discussions are ongoing with the owners of those 2 sites. It is most unlikely that either of those 2 parties would have the commercial incentive to undertake a development themselves, and they have not shown any intention to do so.
- In the absence of a redevelopment of the site, it is likely that the Megabowl unit will remain vacant, leaving a 1980’s eyesore to continue to blight Brierley Hill town centre. A major opportunity to regenerate this sector of Brierley Hill town centre will have been missed.
- Brierley Hill Estates Limited are in discussion with a major anchor tenant, have appointed architects and a professional team and have submitted representations to the Issues and Options Report for the Brierley Hill Area Action Plan, again underlining their commitment to the site.
16.11 An initial set of plans were prepared for the site demonstrating how the proposed floorspace could be accommodated and the agents acting on behalf of Brierley Hill Estates Limited sought pre-application advice from the Council in meetings in 2007 to address issues such as urban design, parking and access.
16.12 Brierley Hill Estates continued discussions with the Council through 2008 and 2009. In 2009, discussions were also held with Tesco in relation to this site. The latest correspondence from Brierley Hill Estates reaffirms their commitment to the redevelopment of the site and clarifies that they require 3000m2 net convenience floorspace to make a comprehensive redevelopment scheme viable.
16.13 The Council agree that a redevelopment scheme here would improve the vitality and viability of the High Street. It will provide a shopping anchor at the south of the High Street which will complement the development of Block BR20 which will provide the retail anchor at the north of the High Street. The Moor Centre also benefits from a good position near to the proposed Metro terminus and Brierley Place.