Of course, it’s not the whole of Camberley that’s for sale. But an important part of the town centre – The Mall – apparently is.
In essence, The Mall is owned by a company called Capital and Regional, which owns several other shopping malls. A few days ago, C&R presented its half-year results, and stated: “Enhanced focus on recycling of capital reflected in active consideration of unsolicited offer for sale of The Mall, Camberley around current valuation.” If we understand it correctly, that means someone has offered to buy The Mall for about £88.5 million, and that C&R would quite like to have the money. Moreover, the fact that this offer was made public we interpret as advertising for other competitive bids.
We’re not totally surprised by the news. Quite a while ago we suggested that C&R had become less enthusiastic about investing further in Camberley. (See ‘Camberley, the town that time will forget’ http://wp.me/p3Dlu2-1Lk ). Moreover, C&R have expanded into leisure activities – cinemas and gyms – but the Atrium has, we feel, got there first. So The Mall has somewhat limited potential.
Is this good or bad news? Probably bad. The Mall is a well-maintained facility, and the organisation has been a good citizen in Camberley in the past. There’s a fair chance that a successor would not have such high standards; funding a yacht in Monte Carlo might matter more to them.
Where does this leave the borough council? We’ll wait for an announcement. But the council has invested years of effort working with The Mall to come up with a regeneration scheme for the London Road Block. (Regular readers may recall that on more than one occasion we’ve urged the council to pursue a Plan B – any reasonable Plan B – more vigorously.). If C&R does sell up, the London Road Block may stay as it is ‘for ever’. The council’s aspiration to be a Top 100 town will be even further out of reach. And, of course, is there anything more that the council can do to dissuade C&R from selling up? (Is there more that it should have done??)
In the meantime, will The Mall’s ‘facelift’ of its buildings continue? We shall see……