Thursday 25 July 2024
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Broad Marsh Masterplan: Council to review viability of vision for city centre

The former leader of Nottingham City Council says plans to redevelop the old Broadmarsh shopping centre are “commercially undeliverable” and called part of the design “ridiculous”.

The 20-acre site was handed to the Labour-run council after previous owner intu collapsed into administration in 2020.

An advisory group was later set up and the following year a new vision was unveiled with help from leading urban designer Thomas Heatherwick.

Under the new proposals, the frame of the half-demolished shopping centre would be incorporated into the redevelopment and a hotel would be built above the city’s famous caves.

Around 750 homes and office space have also been proposed in the wider scheme, while a ‘Green Heart’ marshland area is currently being created at the bottom of Lister Gate.

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The £10m Broad Marsh Car Park and Bus Station, and new Central Library, have already opened.

The Broad Marsh scaled

However Jon Collins, who led the council for 16 years before he stood down in the May 2019 election, says the latest overall vision is “commercially undeliverable”.

Nottingham City Council and Thomas Heatherwick have defended the plans. The authority says work is ongoing, and it is reviewing options for the site after a series of bids for Government funding were rejected.

A spokesperson for Heatherwick Studio said total demolition of the old centre would worsen the climate emergency. Having delivered the new vision, the company says it is no longer involved in the scheme.

The Broad Marsh scaled

Mr Collins said:

“Since then though they [the council] have had the opportunity to try and set up a partnership with the private sector – and since the council has the asset and no money, you effectively try and get someone to invest in it.

“What the council has decided it wants to do is it wants the private sector to invest in it but only on its terms.

“First of all it has spent £1m on that ridiculous Heatherwick vision, which has come up with something that is commercially undeliverable, whereby you keep the frame and build in and around it.

“There is not a developer I’ve talked to who thinks there is any chance anybody will invest in that concrete and steel structure.

“The way development works is somebody does the building and then guarantees the work, so that the people who then buy the building have got confidence that they haven’t taken on a huge liability.

“That concrete and steel frame was put up 50 to 60 years ago in the 1960s.

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“Nobody is going to take on the risk of taking on that frame. It’s about time people got real and said ‘lets demolish it’ and put some real buildings there.

“Given the council can’t even keep the fountains working in the market square you have got to wonder how it is going to maintain that kind of public realm.”

While money has been secured for the demolition and redevelopment of the western side of the shopping centre, the council has on three separate occasions missed out on £20m in Government Levelling Up cash for the rest of the site.

After leaving the council, Mr Collins set up his own consultancy firm.

© The old Broadmarsh Centre
The old Broadmarsh Centre

This includes advisory work with both the public sector and private developers on planning policy, funding applications and land and asset sales.

Mr Collins says while many companies in the private sector would be happy to fund redevelopment, he claims some developers have so far been ignored.

Peveril Securities and Sladen Estates, who were behind the Unity Square development, purchased a number of key buildings next to the Broadmarsh in 2020, including Albion House in Greyfriar Gate and Hanson House and Midland Scooter Centre in Collin Street.

Once developed it was said the site could accommodate 300,000 square feet of office space with an end value of £150m.

Mr Collins claims these plans have since stalled due to lack of engagement from the council.

When contacted, Sladen Estates said: “Sladen is not in a position to comment at this point in time.”

According to Mr Collins, another big local developer offered to buy the site where the Broadmarsh shopping centre stood for £12m and work on a joint development around the time of intu’s collapse.

“They didn’t even get a reply,” he said.

“What you have effectively got is a council with no money running a vision and master-planning exercise, coming up with proposals that are not commercial, that have delayed developments and we are still waiting.

“We’ve had years of blaming the Government for not giving funding for something which quite frankly the private sector will be happy to be fund.”

Responding, a Nottingham City Council spokesman said: “We are currently finalising the masterplan and commencing a business case which will review the viability of the vision, as well as looking at the council’s alternative options and identify the best delivery option.

“We have engaged with the private sector extensively, including as recently as last week, through a workshop seeking wide and varied partner views. We’re also very shortly due to continue further soft-market engagement with the developer and funding market.

“We will be meeting with Sladen Estates later this month to engage with them on our respective plans.”

And a spokesperson for Heatherwick Studio added: “Our vision for Nottingham City Centre grew out of the Big Conversation with residents, businesses and community groups.

“Rather than demolish all of the rest of the old shopping centre and make the climate emergency even worse, this design imagines breathing new life into the remaining building.

“Together with the Green Heart, it would give people a place to enjoy and explore for years to come.”

Problems with redeveloping what the council calls the ‘Greater Broad Marsh’ area have only been compounded by serious financial troubles.

In November last year the council declared effective bankruptcy over an in-year budget gap of £23m, while a separate £53m budget black hole in the year beginning April 2024 has led to plans for sweeping cuts to services.

The majority of pressures have been put down by the authority to reductions in Government funding, by around £100m a year, as well as soaring costs and demand in social care and homelessness services.

But a lack of cash reserves, in part caused by the collapse of Robin Hood Energy, was also cited as a reason for a lack of financial resilience in the council.

Mr Collins has now said he takes responsibility for issues during his time as council leader and a director of the firm, and “in hindsight” would not have set it up.


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