A PLAN to buy part of Haverfordwest’s town centre was unanimously backed by Pembrokeshire County Council’s cabinet in a bid to regenerate the area.
Concerns about the proposal to buy Riverside Shopping Centre had been raised by some councillors but on Monday (November 30) the plan was given the green light by cabinet members and assurances given it would not impact on “core services.”
Cabinet member for regeneration Cllr Paul Miller said that exact details for the purchase were considered commercially sensitive and were included in information not made public at Monday’s meeting, but added that he believed that no more than £700,000 would be spent.
Three scenarios were modelled by officers he said, outlining the best, realistic and worst case scenario of owning the retail area, which were considered carefully as part of the proposal which forms part of a regeneration plan for the town in addition to the new library and the transformation of the western quayside, including the former Ocky White building.
It was not a plan for the council alone, he added, with discussions with external partners on how best to transform the site which includes the shopping area and Perrots Road car park after purchase underway.
“The private sector is not going to repurpose the town centre for us,” said Cllr Miller, pointing to what previous owners had done for the area, with the council’s choice being having a role in what is done there or not.
Cllr Bob Kilmister, cabinet member for finance, added that he supported the project as long as it involved no borrowing and no revenue budget costs.
“This does not affect social services and education budgets one iota and never will it as far as I’m concerned,” he said.
Cllr Tessa Hodgson also added her support, highlighting the decline of Pembroke’s listed buildings which had been “neglected for decades” with some regeneration now planned as part of the council’s South Quay project.
Using town centres for more than retail was also key with arts, culture, green space for meeting people included in much of the research on regeneration of towns, she highlighted.
There is up to £2.65million available in Welsh Government grants, as long as the site is used to deliver “a wider project.”
Cllr Mark Carter made public his concerns about the plan, adding: “I must say I am totally opposed to this purchase even though PCC will get a substantial grant, it is the ongoing and unknown costs that concern me.”
Cabinet unanimously approved the acquisition of the Riverside Shopping centre “following an offer accepted by the vendors and completion of a due diligence process to determine a final purchase price for the property as a going concern.”