New boss reveals big ideas for Merry Hill
Expanding key stores, recruiting more big high street names, adding more restaurants and improving leisure facilities – that's what the new firm behind Merry Hill plans for the shopping centre's future.
In a £407.7 million deal this week property giant Intu bought out Westfield's half share in the Black Country landmark retail destination and will also take over day-to-day running of the centre.
And the company has made it clear it has big plans for Merry Hill.
But one thing that won't change is Merry Hill's free parking.
It currently offers 10,000 places and Mike Butterworth, who is head of Intu, sees it as an important element of the shopping centre's attraction.
"We are committed to maintaining that free car parking," said Mr Butterworth.
"It's very important to the centre that we make it easy for people to get there and free parking is part of that.
"We see Merry Hill as joining a stable that includes the Trafford Centre, Lakeside in West Thurrock and Gateshead's MetroCentre."
But he is aware that Intu has a job ahead of it to bring Merry Hill up to the standard of the UK's top shopping centres.
After spending his early years in and around Wolverhampton, Mr Butterworth is no stranger to the delights of shopping at the Merry Hill centre.
"I used to live in Wolverhampton so I've become pretty familiar with Merry Hill over the years.
"I lived in Albrighton in my teenage years and into my mid-20s," he said.
"I think its certainly true that Merry Hill used to be better than it is today.
"I think there are things that can be done to the leisure and catering areas to make it a lot more attractive as a family day out, which is what we are after.
"It is early days yet, and we are still working out the details, but talking to the council is the first thing on our list, followed by the retailers."
Free car parking could become a point of conflict in the future, however.
Dudley Cuncil has made it clear that it will insist on parking charges if Merry Hill is to expand.
Dudley Council leader, Councillor David Sparks, said: "Merry Hill is a private operation therefore charging for car parking is a decision for whoever the owner of Merry Hill is at that time."
Sorry, we are not accepting comments on this article.