Investment could mark turnaround in the fortunes of shopping centre

Olympian Louis Smith

British Land bought Royal Victoria Place in 2018 for £96million, but it has struggled since.

The commercial landlord, one of the UK’s largest, immediately shelved previous owners Hermes’ £70million plan to renovate the shopping centre and build an entertainment complex of its own that would have featured a bowling alley and other attractions.

Instead, British Land, which lost nearly £2billion during the pandemic, spent just £11million improving the facility’s floors and signage.

The RVP owner admitted last year that it has seen a 10.8 per cent tumble in the value of its property portfolio, which fell from £11.2billion in 2020 to £9.1million at the end of March 2021.

It has blamed a lack of rents from its shopping centres after it had to waive rental agreements during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Not only did BHS close in 2016, but since then GAP, H&M and Topshop have all disappeared, while Central Market, a new food hall that opened in 2019 in the empty Ely Court collapsed earlier this year.

But the new leisure facility could provide a turnaround for RVP.

In Wandsworth, a similar £4million leisure facility by Gravity Active was opened in the Southside shopping centre last year and it has already seen the footfall in the London borough increase, bringing extra revenue to shops and restaurants in the area.


Plenty of ideas – but BHS is still empty after six years

The BHS unit in Royal Victoria Place has sat empty for more than six years after the retail giant collapsed.

After the unit was abandoned in 2016, it had been hoped another big brand high street name would take over the lease. But rumours of Primark, John Lewis and other high street giants coming to the site in the Tunbridge Wells shopping centre all led to nothing and the BHS unit remains empty behind hoardings that were erected due to the empty unit’s visible prominence in the Calverley Road pedestrian precinct.

Along with the abandoned ABC Cinema site, it has proved a bone of contention with residents who wanted to see the large empty shopping centre unit filled.

A petition was launched last year to turn the empty space into an indoor market, but M&G Real Estate, who owned the lease, refused to repurpose the space.

The new leisure complex planned for the former BHS store comes after plans to build a new retirement complex on the ABC Cinema site in Tunbridge Wells, which has stood empty for more than 20 years.


Front Page Story: Leisure complex plan for BHS site

Read more at: Entertainment complex will put the town back in pole position

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