Months of speculation and uncertainty over the future of Royal Victoria Place (RVP) have ended with the news that the shopping centre has been sold.
The move has been hailed by Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce as a ‘massive vote of confidence’ in Tunbridge Wells.
The business community has been quick to welcome the announcement that one of Europe’s biggest developers, British Land, has exchanged contracts to buy the mall from Hermes for £96million.
Two years after Tunbridge Wells Borough Council approved £70million plans to expand the centre with more shops and restaurants, one in four units now stand empty with BHS and H&M among those to have disappeared.
Traders have previously expressed their concerns about the uncertainty with all shops in the sub-arcade Ely Court now standing empty.
It is not yet known if British Land will adopt the existing plans for the redevelopment, including a multi-screen cinema, or submit new proposals.
They have, however, pledged to revitalise RVP and give shoppers a new experience.
Charles Maudsley, Head of Retail, Leisure & Residential at British Land, is reported to have told business media: “We’re focused on ensuring our portfolio and the space within it reflects the way retail is changing, both in terms of how people are choosing to shop and how retailers do business.
“Key to this is providing high-quality space which enables retailers to effectively showcase their range, facilitate transactions and support fulfilment, while also recognising that shoppers increasingly wish to combine retail outings with other leisure activities.
“Our acquisition at Tunbridge Wells is in line with that approach. This is a well-located, high quality mixed use asset which presents a real opportunity to drive further value and returns, as we apply the extensive asset management, operational retail and placemaking expertise we have within British Land.”
The full sale of RVP shopping centre is likely to be completed in May with the buyers British Land making further announcements about their intended plans over the coming months.
Town leaders are encouraged by the fact British Land have a 98 per cent occupancy rate in shopping centres across their portfolio. The firm recently completed a £60million refurbishment of Meadowhall centre in Sheffield.