Buildings housing Waitrose and New Look stores in Woodley have been bought by Wokingham Borough Council as part of its investment strategy.

The council has acquired 108-114 Crockhamwell Road for £9.65 million. The site includes service land alongside a council-owned car park for the shopping centre.

Cllr Stuart Munro, executive member for business and economic development, said: “Waitrose is a fantastic business and, like so many foodstores, have continued to trade strongly over the last year despite the impact of Covid-19.

“We were very pleased when the opportunity came up to purchase the site. Not only is it a great financial investment that will help us fund essential services for residents, it is also an important strategic site which will help us better support the town centre for years to come.”

Jamie Naughton, of Edgerley Simpson Howe, which advised the council, said: “The foodstore sector has been extremely resilient and reacted exceptionally well to the global pandemic with much of the sector seeing strong performance.

“We also see a great opportunity going forward in local centres, such as Woodley, to accommodate, and benefit from, the longer term changes to working practices.

“The purchase of Waitrose is an excellent opportunity for the council to benefit from this. It has also given the council control of an important anchor tenant within Woodley centre and brings the foodstore and Crockhamwell Road car park under one ownership.”

The vendor was represented by Montagu Evans.

The deal follows the council’s £2m acquisition of Twyford House at 17-25 London Road, Twyford in September which houses several retail units.

Cllr Munro said: “Since the beginning of the year the cost of providing services during the pandemic has continued to grow significantly with many more residents and businesses needing extra support. Alongside this our income from areas such as leisure facilities and car parks has fallen, leaving a hole in the council’s finances.

“Projects like the investment programme are really coming into their own and are critical in helping the council fund local services whilst the country continues to work its way through the current crisis.

“We’ve used a similar financial model to our town centre regeneration project where, rather than using tax payer funds, the investment fund needs to be self-supporting with income from tenant rents used to pay the cost of buying and maintaining the sites whilst any surplus income comes back to the council.

“So far it’s proving a great success with our investments already generating around £1m profit a year and set to grow to over £1.5m following our latest purchases. And bear in mind that this is all extra money, which isn’t dependent on council tax or government grants, and contributes to the funding of key council services like local care and improving our roads.

“Despite the impact of Covid-19 our portfolio has remained quite robust, reflecting our careful approach to investment which has focussed on properties with a strong income profile such as foodstores and well-established businesses.

“This is especially good when we can also secure sites that have additional benefits to residents such as the recent Woodley and Twyford purchases that will help with our longer term ambitions for these areas, or the Denmark Street purchase which allowed us to reopen this important car park for visitors to Wokingham town centre.”

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