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Horsham District Council buys The Forum for £15M

Horsham District Council buys The Forum

On Tuesday (August 1) it was announced that The Forum, Horsham Town Centre, had been bought by Horsham District Council. This gives the council control of a key strategic site in the town centre, directly between Sainsbury’s food store and West Street.

The £15m investment is in a total of 76,625 sq ft of accommodation currently let to four tenants: Dunelm, TK Maxx, Blacks and Benson for Beds. As part of the deal, the council will also acquire ownership of the 472 space Blackhorse Way car park, for which it currently pays rent.

The Forum investment will be added to the council’s existing commercial property portfolio, which has over the years helped fund council services and currently includes assets that generate £3.1m of income per year. It is expected that the new purchase will further boost that income to support the cost of providing services, such as waste and recycling, which alone costs just under £3 million a year to provide. It also helps ensure that money will continue to be available for other services the district council provides, such as housing, parks & countryside, planning, environmental services and leisure activities, including swimming pools and leisure centres.

Councillors gave the go-ahead to purchase the site, from clients of Aviva Investors at a Council meeting on 5 July, but the matter could not be made public for commercial confidentiality reasons until legal completion on Monday 31 July, 2017.

The purchase will: provide a longer term strategic opportunity to improve the link between Sainsbury’s car park and West Street and to develop the Forum Piazza; unlock a disadvantageous lease on the car park, and give the council freedom to change or redevelop the car park in the future if necessary, and deliver an additional annual income stream of £780,000.

A supplementary capital budget of £15m has been approved by Council, which will be funded through a range of sources including cash and borrowing.

Cabinet Member for Finance and Assets, Brian Donnelly, said: “As funding for councils from central Government entirely disappears, this is both about investing to make money – money to increase future income to support our council services – and about supporting our long held policy of council investment within our district. This acquisition gives us control over a major strategic site, one that is a big part of the council’s vision for the town centre.”

Leader of the Council, Ray Dawe, said: “This is one of the most exciting property acquisitions, that the council has made, in that it opens up strategic opportunities for Horsham town. This acquisition will increase our income stream significantly, whilst allowing us to benefit from any potential capital growth in the future.

“Retail is strong in Horsham, and we benefit from having one of the lowest levels of empty shops in the country. Many major retailers are investing in the town, which is great news as Horsham continues to grow and as we see an increased population using the town centre shops. Owning the site will help us to now deliver the improvements and actions necessary to strengthen the role and image of the town further, as identified in the Town Centre Vision public consultation that took place recently.”

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