A buyer for the former Bell Street supermarket could be announced within weeks following the submission of a formal offer to purchase the site.
Budgens closed its Shaftesbury Town Centre store in 2017. Five separate bids were lodged with the agent acting for the receiver. Details of those bidders have not been made public, but they included Shaftesbury Town Council.
Councillors and community representatives worked together to draft plans for a mix of retail, business and community uses on the site as part of their offer. Their bid was tabled in December 2018.
In August 2019, Shaftesbury Town Council business manager Brie Logan said she understood that two of the bidders had offered more money than the council. The Town Council formally withdrew its bid on Halloween last year after the process appeared to stall. Councillors wanted to use the ring-fenced funds on other projects.
This morning (Monday), property agent Andrew Capes of Avison Young told Alfred that the empty store of almost 16,000sqft was now under offer. “It’s in the hands of lawyers, at the moment,” he said.
There have been suggestions that a hotel operator wanted the town centre site. In August 2019, Premier Inns’ Ben Copithorne confirmed to Alfred that his company was ‘interested in coming to Shaftesbury’. Persimmon Homes told a public meeting that they had identified a hotel partner interested in occupying part of their land south of the A30 Salisbury Road.
However, Mr Capes has dismissed suggestions that an accommodation provider is interested in the former Budgens and Co-Op building. “There’s nothing in that. What the purchaser ultimately tried to do with it will be down to him, but I don’t believe a hotel is featuring in the plan,” he said.
It might be difficult for a developer to get permission for anything other than retail or leisure uses for the supermarket site, which would include a hotel. The agents have published the minutes of a meeting with local planners held in August 2018. At the time, the Dorchester-based council officers stated that this empty supermarket was ‘a key anchor site’ in the town centre.
Any change of use which could remove the retail frontage would be ‘resisted’, although it was acknowledged that the site could be subdivided into smaller retail units in the front with alternative uses behind. That could pave the way for housing to be added to the upper floors. Shaftesbury Town Councils’ bid assessed the potential for affordable homes above ground-floor retail and business space.
Mr Capes wouldn’t estimate a timeline for completion, but he was optimistic that there would be progress with the sale, ‘this week and next’.