Wakefield Council could take 'financial interest' in The Ridings Shopping Centre as part of city centre overhaul

Wakefield Council could take a financial interest in the city's up-for-sale shopping centre, in a move that could see some of it demolished.

By David Spereall
Tuesday, 8th February 2022, 3:26 pm
The shopping centre was put on the market last year.
The shopping centre was put on the market last year.

The Ridings was put on the market by its owners last year, amid tough conditions for retailers.

Council leader Denise Jeffery denied rumours the local authority was set to buy the mall in 2020, saying, "It's not our role to buy into shopping centres."

But next week, senior councillors will decide whether or not to explore the prospect of going into a "partnership" with New River Retail (NRR), which runs The Ridings.

The Ridings was built in the 1980s.

It forms part of a wide-ranging masterplan for Wakefield city centre detailing how it will be transformed over the next 20 years.

A council report on the idea says a deal with NRR would secure The Ridings' medium term future and allow for the city centre to be regenerated as planned.

This would also involve part of the venue being knocked down to create space for new housing on Kirkgate, in works that are being partly funded through the government's Towns Fund.

The report said the move is "not intended" to lead to the council running the Ridings, and its financial interest in the property would end after a period of time.

The centre is run by the New River Retail group.

It said: "Since last year, NRR have been actively seeking interested parties willing to acquire The Ridings.

"As the future of the centre is critical to the successful delivery of the masterplan, the proposal is that, subject to being able to reach an agreement with NRR, the council enter into a time limited exclusivity agreement, to allow for the co-commissioning of proposals for this wider scheme."

Offering further details on how the regeneration of the Kirkgate area and The Ridings could look, the report added: "The scheme could create much needed green space in the city centre, establishing a new destination with space for events, informal recreation, play and multiple leisure opportunities.

"The plans include the refurbishment of some existing social housing, together with the delivery of around 110 new homes."

The masterplan details how the city centre could change over the next 20 years.

Councillors will be asked to allow a due diligence exercise to be carried out on the prospect of going into partnership with The Ridings at a Cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

Those findings would then be published in June.

The council's portfolio holder for regeneration, Darren Byford, said it was a "pivotal moment" for the city centre.

He added: "We want our city to be a place that encourages people to visit and enjoy the shops, cafes, restaurants, and special places including our Cathedral.

"By creating a vibrant environment, we want people to feel welcome and to recognise the city as a great place to work, live and visit.

“Transformation on this scale doesn’t happen overnight and it can often feel slow, but by setting out a clear way forward will enable us to plan ahead, take up important funding opportunities and drive our regeneration at pace wherever possible."

Further details on the city centre masterplan and what's been proposed

Northgate and Borough Road

A new pedestrian link between the bus station and Wakefield College could be built, with a "new green and play space" put in the heart of the area.

It's been suggested the Borough Road car park could be converted into a multi-storey parking space with a cycle hub.

Residential properties and a "commercial building" may also be put up on the northern side of the site.

George Street neighbourhood

Proposals for George Street are to create a pleasant and attractive street

for pedestrians and cyclists through a phased development of key neglected sites.

The council says this would eventually to an "accessible and green new residential neighbourhood".

Westgate and Cathedral Retail Park

The council says the warehouses in the Garden Street area would be converted into "more appropriate city centre uses".

It's suggested a "linear park" could be created through the unveiling of Ings Beck, together with a new mixed-use neighbourhood.

This will include the retention of some of the existing uses on site, new retirement communities, family homes, a new school, student accommodation, together with ground floor leisure and commercial offers.

Local Democracy Reporting Service