Wakefield Ridings Shopping Centre up for sale as concerns raised about empty shops and online shopping
The Ridings Shopping Centre in Wakefield has been put up for sale, the local council leader has revealed.
The centre, which was built in 1983, was bought by investment company NewRiver in 2015 and later given a £5m makeover.
Several shops within the centre have closed in recent years however, despite the opening of a new food court and cinema, with high street retailers struggling to cope.
The Ridings has been contacted for comment, but has yet to respond.
New River, meanwhile, has declined to comment, or confirm that the venue is sale.
But the information is understood to be accurate.
Speaking on a Q&A session on Facebook on Tuesday, Wakefield Council leader Denise Jeffery was asked about the troubles facing local high streets.
Coun Jeffery admitted that the city of Wakefield was struggling with empty units and low footfall and added, “The Ridings is up for sale.
“That’s a real worry for us.
“The Ridings was fabulous when it was first built. It was one of the first shopping centres in the country when it was built in the 80s.
“People used to come from all over on coach trips to shop there.”
Coun Jeffery said that when the nearby Trinity Walk shopping centre was built in 2011 to “complement” The Ridings, “it was great, but at the moment it (the health of high streets shops) is not good.”
NewRiver owns 33 shopping centres across the UK, as well as a further 19 retail parks.
In its annual accounts statement published this year, the company said that in April 2020 it had set a 12-month target of selling “between £80m and £100m of assets”, which would be “used to reduce debt”.
The statement also said that having achieved this target, a further £79m worth of assets have been sold “or are under offer” since the start of the financial year in April 2021.
It is not known what price NewRiver is seeking for The Ridings, or if any prospective buyers have come forward.
The news that it’s up for sale comes exactly a year after Councillor Jeffery denied rumours that the council was going to buy the shopping centre, saying it was not the local authority’s “place” to make such a purchase.
And in March this year, Wakefield’s MP Imran Ahmad Khan suggested The Ridings should be demolished to make way for a conference centre, as part of plans to build a monorail across the city.
That idea has not progressed however, and Mr Khan is currently suspended by the Conservative Party, as he faces trial over sexual assault charges, which he denies.
Councillor Jeffery said that the high streets in the nine towns across the Wakefield district were performing reasonably well. In the city however, it’s a different story, with footfall remaining relatively low.
She added: “A lot of the towns are thriving.
“They’ve got the markets, they’ve got niche shops and independent traders.
“But in Wakefield we’ve got all the empty shops, and I don’t know if it’s the high rents, or people just don’t want to go to big shops anymore. It’s the cities that are struggling.”
The council leader said the authority was “doing our best” to attract more people into the city centre through holding family-friendly events.
The recent Festival of the Earth, which included exhibitions in the Cathedral and old market hall, has been deemed a success in this regard, though that event has now finished.
Coun Jeffery added: “People shopping online doesn’t help at all.
“I just hope with Christmas coming up, people will want the social activity – they’ll go for a coffee and they’ll go and do some shopping on the high street.”
David Spereall , Local Democracy Reporting Service
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