Question marks this week hang over plans for the £70million expansion programme at Royal Victoria Place after reports that the shopping centre is about to be sold.
The centre was bought by Hermes Real Estate in 2012 and looks to be, on the verge of being bought by British Land for around £100million.
All parties yesterday [Tuesday] declined to comment although the Times understands the sale will proceed.
British Land is one of the biggest property developers in Europe and states that its mission is to ‘provide places to shop, eat and be entertained’.
It is their focus on ‘entertainment’ that leads industry insiders to believe British Land will pursue a more ambitious expansion programme beyond the current plans for an eight screen cinema, shops and restaurants.
Tunbridge Wells Borough Council leader David Jukes yesterday told the Times: “If the sale goes ahead it can only be a good thing for the town.
“The expansion at RVP would hopefully still happen although not necessarily as planned and might be even more imaginative.”
News of the possible sale was first reported in the weekly commercial property magazine Estates Gazette.
It said Hermes ‘decision to sell forms part of a wider asset management and investment strategy’.
Tunbridge Wells Borough Council (TWBC) own the freehold on RVP and last year passed a plan that will see work commence on the corner of Camden Road and Calverley Road.
This has led to several shops moving out to make way, with 16 units out of 88 units currently standing empty.
According to the Gazette, British Land has the opportunity to add at least ten shops and restaurants if it decides to go ahead.
A Hermes spokesman confirmed they currently own 100 per cent of the centre and said: “We do not comment on market speculation.”
Neither British Land nor Royal Victoria Place (RVP) management provided a comment when approached.
Who are British Land?
As one of the largest property development firms in Europe, British Land has had a long association with shopping centres.
Since its foundation in 1856 the company has acquired a portfolio currently valued at £13.4billion, which includes Meadowhall mall in Sheffield.
In addition British Land is listed on the FTSE 100, an index of the 100 largest companies on the London Stock Exchange.
Royal Victoria Place would complement a list of other shopping centres in their portfolio which includes Surrey Quays in Rotherhithe.
Another major asset is 122 Leadenhall Street, nicknamed The Cheese Grater, which became the third tallest building in the UK when it was completed in 2014.
A large amount of their property has been purchased from and then leased back to major retailers such as Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Asda.
Who owns Royal Victoria Place?
Hermes Real Estate became full-owners owners of RVP in 2012 after buying out Australian-based firm Westfield.
The £159million deal saw Hermes take control of three shopping centres, including the Tunbridge Wells mall.
The company took full control of retail assets. RVP was opened by Princess Diana in 1992 and has long been considered a bankable site with Tunbridge Wells’ position as the UK’s fifth most affluent town.
Hermes’ investment was reported at the time to be a show of faith in the UK retail industry. The lease terms for the site, however, are a different story and grant a favourable deal to Tunbridge Wells Borough Council who own the freehold. Terms state the authority will be paid either 10 per cent of net rents or a minimum ground rent of £837,000 – whichever is greater.