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Christchurch Town Council offers to buy Waitrose car park

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CHRISTCHURCH Town Council said it is prepared to step in and buy the car park at Waitrose following previous claims the retailer might quit if it cannot gain control over the land.

The suggestion comes after BCP Council, which owns the site, voted narrowly in March last year against selling it, writes Trevor Bevins of the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

A recent meeting of BCP Council was asked by Christchurch's mayor elect, Independent Cllr Avril Coulton, to reconsider “in light of the full facts” since the decision in 2021 in which she said "asset stripping was the main concern".

The car park generates around £300,000 in fees per year (picture: Google)
The car park generates around £300,000 in fees per year (picture: Google)

In a normal year the car park generates around £300,000 in fees.

Cllr Coulton went on: “Since then my council has written to the council leader, deputy leader and CEO.

"The town council is in a strong position and is able to purchase the site for the same price.

“The leader, Cllr Drew Mellor, has confirmed since that BCP would not sell the site.

"This decision was not made by council and, in the light of the full facts, the town council asks BCP to reconsider its position knowing that a solution is available.”

Her statement was received by a ripple of applause around the room.

BCP's Conservative administration had previously agreed to sell the car park for a reported £1.5m to the pension fund, which has the store freehold, before the lease on the land expires in 2027.

Cllr Mellor insisted when the sale was voted down last year that he was committed to investing in Christchurch but ordered all his councillors to abstain, apart from ward member Peter Hall.

That left the decision to Cllr Hall, Liberal Democrat Cllr Mike Cox and the Christchurch Independents group.

Cllr Cox argued the that there was no evidence that Waitrose were considering leaving the town, and Cllr Lesley Dedman, of the Christchurch Indepenents, claimed the sale by BCP would be a bad deal for the town.

“At the first opportunity this administration is selling off the family silver and a lot of residents take this view,” she said.

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