A LOCAL authority has confirmed that it has completed a £7 million purchase of a shopping centre following months of negotiations.

Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council announced it had completed the acquisition of the Wellington Square shopping centre, as part of a £30 million plan to take control of key sites and assets across the town.

In December, the council announced it was looking to borrow the cash to revamp the borough's town centres.

The completed deal means around 200,000 square foot of commercial floor space, which includes the ground floor of Debenhams, will be owned and controlled by the council.

However, the deal does not include the unit previously occupied by Marks and Spencer until last year.

As part of the deal, Knight Frank, who already operate Stockton's Castlegate shopping centre have been called in to manage Wellington Square on behalf of the council.

On Wednesday, Stockton councillor Nigel Cooke said it would be 'business as usual' despite the change.

He added: "We said we’d be taking advantage of opportunities to buy key town centre sites and assets and that’s exactly what we’re doing.

“It was essential that we were able to respect commercial confidentiality throughout these negotiations and I’m delighted we’re now in a position to confirm that we’ve completed the purchase of this asset, as agreed by Council in December.

“Whilst owning Wellington Square will actually make us money that’s not why we’re doing it. We’re doing it as part of our bigger plan to support our town centres and get on with changing them for the better.

“But our message to traders is that it’s very much business as usual. 

“As well as having vast experience and expertise in the sector, it makes sense to have the same operator running both of Stockton’s main shopping centres.”

As part of the greater plan, the council is due to submit a planning application to demolish the former Glam and Post Office buildings on the high street. It is expected the site will then be redeveloped to include additional car parking.

Peter Bowden of Knight Frank added: “This is an exciting time for Stockton. The acquisition of Wellington Square demonstrates the council’s commitment to enhance the town and boost the economy, providing an improved experience for businesses and residents. Knight Frank are delighted to be part of the project.”