Published: 09:31, 12 April 2019
| Updated: 11:00, 12 April 2019
A Matalan store is set to be snapped up by a council for £5m - and authority bosses have already started talking to big-name supermarkets in case the clothing retailer decides to leave.
Chiefs at Ashford Borough Council (ABC) have had a conditional bid for the Brookfield Road site accepted and the multi-million pound purchase will go through if authority chiefs agree to it.
But Matalan, which still has six years left on its lease, says it is going nowhere and plans to extend its stay beyond 2025.
Council bosses say they have already held discussions with two national supermarkets to “understand the site’s long-term value” if Matalan did opt to go.
The prime spot, previously home to Cartiers Freezer Foods and Tesco, was put on the market in February.
Cllr Graham Galpin (Con) says the site - which the council is set to buy for £4.75m - has lots of potential.
“The purchase makes a considerable and secure contribution to the sustainability of the council and its ability to fund services,” he said.
“Matalan has six years remaining on its lease, which it is expected to renew - if not then there is active interest from two national chains.
“In addition to the opportunity to receive revenue, there is the development option for the remainder of the site, or all of the site if it becomes vacant."
In a report prepared for a cabinet meeting last night, the council's head of corporate property and projects, Paul McKenner, says residential use is considered the “most valuable alternative long-term use for the site”.
However, no residential proposals are currently being put forward.
Mr McKenner said: “Discussions have been held with the planning service to consider possible long-term uses of the site.
“These suggest that alternative uses would be considered appropriate and could include other retail units, offices, industrial or residential.
Mr McKenner said: “As the adjoining site is allocated for residential, it would appear that this use would be the preferred alternative use.
“There is a view that this site is appropriate for a ‘gateway’ development marking the change from rural Ashford to town centre Ashford along this major A28 approach route.
“The site is well let to a strong leaseholder and will deliver an acceptable return to the council in the short term.
“There are also a number of options available to the council for the longer term occupation or development of the site, should the current leaseholder vacate.”
A Matalan spokesman confirmed the store will remain open and trade as normal if the council does take over the site.
She said: “Matalan is committed to the Ashford store and currently plans to extend the lease when it is up for renewal in 2025.
“We continue to trade well on the premises and we are very happy with the performance of the store.”
If ABC’s conditional bid was approved at the cabinet meeting last night, it will then need to be given the green light at full council before the sale can go through.
Council documents show the purchase price is £4.75m, with a stamp duty land tax of £227,000 and other costs taking the overall figure to £5m.
In a statement, an ABC spokesman said: “This potential purchase provides an opportunity to secure a key site on an important gateway approach into Ashford and represents a sound investment which will secure an income stream, both in the short and longer term.
“The current tenant Matalan has expressed its desire to stay at this location, which we welcome.
“All our investments help to secure long-term revenue streams for the council and taxpayers through rents and business rates so we can sustain and improve services for our residents and ensure Ashford continues to have the lowest council tax in the county.”
What do you think about ABC buying the Matalan site? Leave your comments below
More by this authorDan Wright
This website and its associated newspaper are members of the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO)