Newark's grade one-listed Buttermarket is back in the public’s hands
NEWARK’s most prominent building, the grade one-listed Buttermarket and former Royal Exchange is back in public ownership.
The near-deserted shopping centre has been bought in partnership by Newark and Sherwood District Council and Newark Town Council, ahead of it going to auction.
The iconic building, which links the market place with Middlegate, has the Town Hall, its magnificent ballroom and the town museum above it.
David Lloyd, district council leader, said: “We have secured these central and iconic buildings and returned them to local ownership.
“It is my firm belief that this is precisely what councils should be doing in order to take a meaningful role in shaping town centres, their economies and leisure aspirations.
“There is no doubt that retail faces increasingly difficult times in traditional town centres and high streets.
“That is why, for some time, we have been trying to negotiate a future for these buildings.
“In that context, I was disappointed to learn out of the blue that they were going to auction.
“It was important that we did all we can to get hold of the buildings beforehand to prevent the risk of yet another remote property fund snapping them up without any local involvement or clear interest in developing Newark as a thriving market town.
“I pay testament to my colleagues at both councils for the speed and effectiveness that they displayed in this negotiation — it was not easy. The opportunity could not be lost.”
Newark Town Council said that since 2014 the property has been owned by an overseas’ company, which bought it for £1.3m, and managed by remote
It said while there had been significant recent investment in the fabric of the buildings, concerns were raised by businesses and the councils at the lack of occupancy of units.
The property, built in 1774, was unexpectedly presented to the market via a London auction, due to take place yesterday.
Both councils saw the chance to secure the buildings and bring them back into local ownership.
The exchange took place on Tuesday with completion expected by January 21 2019.
Max Cope, deputy town council leader, said: “It has been so sad to see the gradual demise of these buildings as a retail offer in the heart of our town over the last few years.
“To allow the buildings to become not much more than a ghost shopping centre has been a disgrace and has had a detrimental impact on the wider retail economy of the town.
“The Buttermarket in particular has huge civic and historic importance to the town. I am delighted it has been secured back into the ownership and control of the town council, where it belongs.
“There is an exciting opportunity for the councils to work together to breathe new investment and life into the buildings.
“I am convinced they will have a major and strategic role in boosting the town’s retail, cultural and leisure offer.”
Mr Lloyd said there would be no quick decisions on the future of the building.
A mix of funding provided by either, or both councils and external funding will be needed for any redevelopment proposals.
“We want a thoughtful and long-term use for the buildings to emerge,” Mr Lloyd said.
“Given their central location, we have the opportunity to link up our heritage and culture offers — the castle, the Town Hall museum and the National Civil War Centre.
“Furthermore, we can explore what uses will support retailers in the town centre by providing a leisure and lifestyle hub smack in the middle of the town.
“On any measure of the price paid — whether it is hard-nosed financial returns or a broader view on social value and local control — this purchase represents an exemplar public investment.”
More by this authorDan Churcher