From: Sebastian Verity
I received an email containing a press release from the council trumpeting the news that Eastbourne Borough Council are about to sink a further £9m into the Hampden Park retail estate.
This is on top of the £18m they spent acquiring the site 18 months ago.
I am deeply concerned at the level of commercial acumen being displayed by the LibDem group on the council. No-one who has been remotely keeping tabs on the UK retail sector would think that either of these decisions was a fiscally prudent one.
Look at the five tenants when they bought the site: B&Q have shut 65 stores and lost 3,000 jobs in the last 2 years, Maplin entered administration in February, Dreams were in administration as recently as 2013 and were put up for sale in 2017 – with no buyers and to round it off, Mothercare are currently in rescue talks.
Which leaves Halfords as the only currently financially stable tenant in the park.
Yes, EBC has just announced that another business will move into the park. Good news? Well, not necessarily. The new tenant is Staples, a firm with poor covenant strength across the retail sector.
It seems EBC is happy to borrow and spend an amount equivalent to half of the cost of the Devonshire Park Theatre refurb, buying a property in the only sector of the commercial property market in major structural decline. According to council documents, the rationale behind this investment was to secure an additional £1m a year in income.
Yet according to their LinkedIn profiles, the apparent decision-makers behind this process – Dean Sabri and Nazeya Hussain (recently departed for Kingston Council) – seem to have zero property, business, private sector or in fact experience of anything outside of local authority or student politics. As it is our council tax which is paying down the interest on the loans taken out to buy and refurbish this ‘asset’, and given that Nazeya has now moved on to pastures new, which of the LibDems’ Council members should the public hold accountable in the likely event that the park fails to generate the projected revenues which justified it’s acquisition?