Published: 09:29, 31 March 2021
| Updated: 14:49, 01 April 2021
Space for retail stores in a shopping centre could be reduced and replaced with office space under council-led plans worth an estimated £10 million.
A secret public sector tenant is being lined up by Medway Council to occupy part of the Pentagon Shopping Centre in Chatham.
Cabinet members at Medway Council approved plans for the revamp, but were tight-lipped about the details.
A report presented to councillors outlined how the council had been looking at plans to utilise some of the centre's space for leisure use but this was scrapped after a potential tenant withdrew interest.
Instead, the council now want to 'repurpose' part of the centre and reduce the amount of retail space to accommodate a "public sector covenant with supporting civic uses".
The full details of the plan were not made publicly available, although the council will begin consulting with current tenants to establish whether they could be offered alternative premises within the centre.
Under the plans, the prospective tenant would be expected to fund the project which is expected to cost in excess of £10 million.
The council is trying is address a revenue shortfall of just under £9 million stemming from many of its income-generating services such as leisure facilities and car parks.
Almost two years on since the council purchased the centre, the report was discussed both during a virtual meeting of cabinet members and during the business support overview and scrutiny committee yesterday.
Cllr Adrian Gulvin (Con), portfolio holder for resources, said footfall within the centre had fallen by 37% during the pandemic but had picked up since the council set up the Medway Towns' mass vaccination centre within the former DW Sports store, and how this figure was less compared to the 49% "national benchmark".
Cllr Gulvin remarked whilst rent payments rates were above comparable shopping centres and some tenants had been lost, prospective tenants were showing an interest in setting up shop at the High Street facility.
He said: "We now have an opportunity to widen the offer at the Pentagon with a non-retail or leisure operation."
Without revealing who the tenant was, outgoing chief legal officer Perry Holmes said the council was actively looking at other public sector uses for the centre which link to the one currently being proposed.
He added: "For lots of reasons, no more than this is not just a brilliant proposal for us as a landlord and for Medway, but it's a brilliant proposal for the prospective tenant as well."