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Wolverhampton Council: There's no risk with Westside development

By Pete Madeley | Wolverhampton | News | Published:

Taxpayers' cash will not be put at risk by the city's new Westside development as long as the scheme is "substantially let", Wolverhampton Council has insisted.

Concerns have been raised over funding for the Westside development

Tory councillors have questioned the financing of the £50 million project, which was given a new lease of life after developers Urban & Civic used a pension fund to bankroll it.

Council bosses today said they were confident that the scheme would "perform well" and run at a profit, claiming it would only become a financial burden if plots were not filled.

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In the coming weeks the Labour-run authority is expected to announce the identities of a number of major players in the scheme.

These include a cinema, 10-pin bowling, an adventure golf course, a 600-space car park and a trampoline centre with soft play.

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Council spokesman Oliver Bhurrut, said: “The council is confident from the independent commercial advice received that the scheme will perform well. It will be funded by an institutional investor. The council is effectively repaying this investor over a period of time.

“In this sense, the council is taking the role of a commercial investor – and the scheme will offer opportunities to bring a profit on rent to the council.

“The council will ensure with Urban & Civic that pre-lettings to occupiers cover the costs to the council, and therefore, providing the scheme is substantially let, it will not be a financial burden to the council.

“Councillors are set to approve the principle of entering into this deal, the detailed legal negotiation will follow, and we will not engage in a deal that will unduly put tax payers’ money at risk.”

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Conservative opposition leader Councillor Wendy Thompson said she has reservations over the council's ability to deliver the scheme successfully.

She described the financial commitment as "a major risk" and accused the authority of using taxpayers' money to take out a lease with a pension fund.

Tories in the city have also called for free parking as part of the development, citing the success of the nearby Bentley Bridge retail park.

Work is due to start on the scheme later this year, with a view to it opening in mid-2021. Council bosses are expected to sign off on the plans at a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday.

Pete Madeley

By Pete Madeley
@P_Madeley_Star

Political Editor for the Express & Star. Responsible for local and national political stories, opinion, comment and analysis.

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