Newark & Sherwood District Council and Newark Town Council have worked together in partnership to purchase the Buttermarket and former Royal Exchange, which have been largely empty for some months. They are two key buildings in the town centre and connect the Market Place with Middlegate.
Since 2014 the property has been owned by an overseas company and managed by remote agents. While there has been significant recent investment in the fabric of the buildings concerns have been raised by local businesses and the councils at the lack of occupancy of existing units which, in part, were due to decisions taken by the previous owners to end or not renew lease agreements.
The property was unexpectedly presented to the market via a London auction, due to take place on the December 5, 2018. Both councils saw an opportunity to secure these iconic buildings in the heart of the town and bring them back into local ownership. The buildings were secured prior to auction for significantly less than the £1.3m paid by the previous owners in 2014. Exchange took place on December 4, 2018 with completion expected by January 21, 2019.
Cllr David Lloyd, Leader of Newark and Sherwood District Council said: “This is an excellent outcome. We have secured these central and iconic buildings and returned them to local ownership.
“It is my firm belief that this is precisely what Councils should be doing in order to take a meaningful role in shaping town centres, their economies and leisure aspirations. There is no doubt that retail faces increasingly difficult times in traditional town centres and high-streets. That is why, for some time we have been trying to negotiate a future for these buildings.
“In that context, I was disappointed to learn ‘out of the blue’ that they were going to auction. It was important that we did all we can to get hold of the buildings beforehand to prevent the risk of yet another remote property fund snapping them up without an local involvement or clear interest in developing Newark as a thriving market town.
“I pay testament to my colleagues at both Councils for the speed and effectiveness that they displayed in this negotiation – it wasn’t easy! The opportunity could not be lost.
“There will be no quick decisions, we want a thoughtful and long-term use for the buildings to emerge. Given their central location, we have the opportunity to link up our heritage and culture offers – the Castle, the Town Hall Museum and the National Civil War Centre.
“Furthermore, we can explore what uses will support retailers in the town centre by providing a leisure and lifestyle hub smack in the middle of the Town. On any measure of the price pad – whether it is ‘hard-nosed’ financial returns or a broader view on social value and local control – this purchase represents an exemplar public investment.”
Cllr Max Cope, Deputy Leader of Newark Town Council said: “It has been so sad to see the gradual demise of these buildings as a retail offer in the heart of our town over the last few years. To allow the buildings to become not much more than a ‘ghost shopping centre’ has been a disgrace and has had a detrimental impact on the wider retail economy of the town.
“The Buttermarket in particular has huge civic and historic importance to the town; I am absolutely delighted that it has been secured back into the ownership and control of the town council, where it belongs.
“I would like to thank all my fellow town councillors, who gave unanimous support to purchase the building and to our officers who have worked extremely hard over the last week to secure the purchase without the risk of it going to public auction.
“I now look forward to working with the district council to find an imaginative and useful purpose for these buildings. There is an exciting opportunity for the councils to work together and to breathe new investment and life into the buildings. I am convinced that they will have a major and strategic role in boosting the town’s retail, cultural and leisure offer.”