A PLAN for Freshney Place to be bought by North East Lincolnshire Council has been unveiled today, as the authority looks to secure the future of Grimsby’s main shopping centre and the 1,700 jobs that go with it.
A report, to go before a special Cabinet meeting and then on to Full Council, outlines a desire to purchase the centre, which went into receivership earlier this year and is currently up for sale.
The report highlights the following points when saying it is vital that this course of action is taken by the council as it looks at further transforming the urban heart of Grimsby:
- Should Freshney Place be acquired by a “passive” owner who is unwilling to invest to deliver a leisure scheme and future proof the centre, its anticipated decline would accelerate, and the centre (including Top Town market) would undermine strategic initiatives to improve the town centre and deter inward investment. Other Local Authorities with similar issues have stepped in with 30 similar purchases in the last five years. Some are starting to see ‘significant progress in implementing their masterplans’.
- The centre makes up 60 per cent of the town centre’s retail offer, supporting one in five jobs within that area.
- This move will safeguard a critical part of Grimsby town centre’s economic and community infrastructure, ensuring it retains a competitive retail and service offer, and safeguarding up to 1,700 jobs within Freshney Place and Top Town Market. If successful, the centre would be run by external Asset Managers with the council taking an ‘arms-length’ approach.
- The continued decline of Freshney Place would have a catastrophic impact on Grimsby town centre. Grimsby town centre serves a wide retail catchment population of more than 300,000 and retains an above average level of shoppers compared to other smaller town centres, according to national retail data, reflecting the lack of a competing centre locally. Therefore, Grimsby town centre plays a vital role, providing a focal point for the North East Lincolnshire area.
- Grant funding from Central Government, including the Towns Fund, has already seen significant transformation in the town centre with projects still under way. These include Garth Lane, St James Square, the new Onside Horizon Youth Zone and the conversion of St James House into an E-Factor Group businesses centre and hub. To enable this regeneration to continue, Freshney Place must have a stable future.
“Freshney Place is a significant asset within the Grimsby town centre, but the Council has not been able to utilise it fully to enact the transformational change it seeks within the town centre. Therefore, besides safeguarding against the impacts of potential closure, the Council’s acquisition of Freshney Place would enable it to use it as part of the wider town centre transformation more easily,” adds the report.
The priority plan is to acquire Freshney Place using the national Future High Streets Fund (FHSF) money. The Council would then bid for replacement money to continue the FHSF work at the western end of Freshney Place and Victoria Street through the ‘LUF (Levelling Up Funds) Round Two’ process. The authority can submit one bid per parliamentary constituency, with a third ringfenced for transport in July this year.
The two other LUF Round Two bids are selected projects from the Cleethorpes Masterplan and the creation of a new Transportation Hub for Grimsby Town Centre. As the Grimsby bids are developed, people will be asked to take part in a survey which will be released next week to help us support the bids.