Council pressing ahead with Forge Island plans

COUNCIL bosses are set to acquire shops on Riverside Precinct in order to make Forge Island more attractive to investors.

They hope lumping together the rundown shopping arcade and former Tesco site will make the land more appealing to developers.

And negotiations are continuing with the Government over the closed courts building, which RMBC wants for a nominal fee.

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Council regeneration director Damien Wilson said: “The prime motive is to get control because it will be better for developers.

“It’s fundamental that we have the link through the precinct, not least because it’s the gateway between the town centre and Forge Island.”

The council has the freehold on the whole precinct, but only has leasehold interest on half of the eight retail units.

The funds for acquiring the rest will be from a £17 million capital pot for town centre improvement, if the proposal is approved by commissioner Julie Kenny on Monday.

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Mr Wilson said: “Acquiring Forge Island is a key priority. That’s a commitment the council’s already made. 

“Separate to that, we are exploring the courts building at the other side of the canal which, while we don’t own it, we are in negotiations with Government agencies in the hope that asset can be transferred.

“What you will then have is three sites that are linked physically and in development terms there’s an added marriage value.

“In isolation, each site has a value but when you lump the three together, there’s a collective value that can be achieved.”

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The precinct could be renovated as part of future plans or demolished to improve the look of the walkway from Corporation Street.

Forge Island - empty since 2014 - was named as the council’s number one town centre priority.

It is expected to cost between £1.5 million and £2 million to buy from Tesco.

Most of the precinct shops have relocated.

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