North East Lincolnshire Council’s purchase of Freshney Place has been completed today.
And it comes with a firm vow from authority leader, Cllr Philip Jackson, of the authority’s intention to redevelop the centre and the area around it, with plans to offer a real mix within the urban heart of Grimsby.
He also assured the council tax paying public of North East Lincolnshire that due diligence has provided assurance that the purchase comes at no direct cost to them, with a combination of grant-funding and rents covering associated costs.
External professionals are now being hired to manage the centre day-to-day, as the council continues its medium and long-term look at what is needed to transform the town centre.
With a catchment area of more than 300,000 people and a town centre shopper population of more than 170,000 (shoppers who are within a 20-minute drive), Freshney Place continues to play an important role within North East Lincolnshire and its town centre. It supports 1,700 full and part time jobs – representing one in five of all jobs within Grimsby Town Centre. Job retention and creation is something that is close to the council’s heart.
Despite the downturn in the retail marketplace across the UK, the centre still generates significant rental income and has now become an integral part of North East Lincolnshire Council’s plans to diversify its whole central urban offer. The decision to buy, says Council leader Cllr Philip Jackson, is driven by a need to protect a vital asset – preventing it falling into the hands of owners who may not have seen Grimsby’s transformation as a priority.
“Freshney Place is a huge space in our town centre, and we must ensure it has a stable future and is owned by those who have the interests of Grimsby at its very core. Yes, we must be prudent and responsible and I want to assure the people of North East Lincolnshire that this decision was not taken lightly.
“Significant work has been undertaken to assure this is well conceived and affordable, with no direct financial impact upon or subsidy required from our local council taxpayers. We have also followed a lead taken by other local authorities, which have been successful with similar investments.”
He added: “What it provides is a unique opportunity. The centre will be run by an experienced and professional company, with us talking an arms-length approach. This will allow us to look at a way forward for the whole of the centre and the town itself. We are on the cusp of real re-invention here, to diversify and look at different ways we can use Freshney Place and its surrounds.”
The council’s town centre vision includes:
- The transformation of a major arm of the west of Freshney Place: This will include a new cinema, eateries and a vibrant new Top Town market. The Parkway Entertainment Company has already signed a deal to operate the cinema. Richard Parkes, director at Parkway said: “We look forward to being part of real change to the heart of the town.”
- A new Horizon OnSide Youth Zone: the national charity is progressing well with its plans to redevelop the historic West Haven Maltings. They will provide thousands of young people with opportunities. Sport, art, music, media, dance, drama, cooking, employability and enterprise workshops are just some of the activities that will be available.
- A LUF (Levelling Up Fund) submission for a new transport hub in the Town Centre and the electrification of the town’s bus fleet.
- Work ongoing through the Towns Fund to transform Riverhead Square. Those plans were released last month.
- A plan to create modern, green town centre housing on Alexandra Dock again with Towns Fund monies.
The above succeeds work already taking place or completed, including millions of pounds of ringfenced Government funds to redevelop Garth Lane and St James Square. The E-Factor is also set to take over the St James House building to create a new business hub.