Date published: 20 February 2013
Council Leader, Councillor Colin Lambert
Rochdale Borough Council is shelling out £2.5 million on a new entrance to the Wheatsheaf Centre in the hope it will get the money back from the developer of a proposed new shopping centre, if that shopping centre ever gets off the ground.
There are serious doubts that it ever will, as critics say the developer, Genr8, does not have the financial ability to fulfil the contract.
Simon Danczuk MP said: “I have seen the Experian and Company Watch reports on Genr8 and they do not fill me with confidence. They raise serious questions about their ability to deliver for our town.”
The Council is confident it can walk away from the contract if the scheme fails - clauses include terminating the agreement after 12 months if outline plans have not been submitted and if the work hasn’t begun within five and a half years.
However, if that happens the Council will not recover the £2.5 million 'forward funding' spent on the new Wheatsheaf entrance and it will also have wasted over £30 million clearing the area designated for the development.
Critics are also questioning why Rochdale needs another shopping centre when it can't fill the two it already has.
Moreover, retail experts such as Bill Grimsey, former chief executive at Iceland, have gone public saying that retail in town centres is dead and will not recover, speaking on Newsnight last week he urged councils to rethink the purpose of town centres.
Local residents are therefore questioning why Colin Lambert's council insist on pressing ahead with what many consider will be another 'white elephant' and a monumental waste of tax payers money - if it ever happens.