Council snaps up retail park and office block as part of investment drive

Pathfinder House, home of Huntingdonshire District Council.

Pathfinder House, home of Huntingdonshire District Council. - Credit: Archant

Huntingdonshire District Council has spent more than £9million buying properties outside of the district in the last 12 months.

The authority, through its commercial investment strategy, has acquired a shopping centre and an office block to add to its growing portfolio.

The most expensive of the two properties purchased in the last year was Shawlands Retail Park, in Sudbury, Suffolk, which was bought by the council in October last year at a cost of almost £7million.

The retail park sits more than 60 miles from the authority’s headquarters in Huntingdon.

Councillor Robin Howe, former executive leader of the district council, told The Hunts Post: “We took some advice three years ago when we launched the commercial investment strategy that said at the moment Huntingdonshire District Council has investments in a basket of properties around Huntingdon and it would be advisable to spread the investment risk by investing in other types of properties in relatively local districts, not in Blackpool or in Scotland.

“So if Huntingdon went into decline we would lose a lot of money simultaneously, but at the same time we don’t want to neglect our local area so investing in our local area is clearly important.”

The second purchase made by the council saw it acquire an office block in Hitchin, North Hertfordshire. The property was purchased by the council for £2.3million in July last year.

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“We have kept the balance quite well so we are not reliant on the retail sector or the office sector but we have a spread,” Cllr Howe added.

The money to buy the sites has been borrowed and it is hoped that both properties will provide the council with income of more than £652,000 per year.

“I think we are very happy with the way that has gone because the reason we are doing this is because we can borrow money relatively cheaply to buy this property,” Cllr Howe, who announced last week that he would shortly be stepping down as leader, said.

Earlier this year, the council also tried to buy a property in St Neots but didn’t succeed in the purchase.

Since it began its investment strategy three years ago, the council has spent about £25million acquiring an array of units including offices, retail and commercial.