TWYFORD’S Waitrose building is now in the hands of the council after finance bosses bought the site for a fee which could rise to £15.6 million.

The London Road site is the latest in a string of property purchases by Wokingham Borough Council (WBC), which spent nearly £50 million on sites around the country last year as part of its investment portfolio.

NOW READ: Flowers placed by friends and family in tribute to PC Harper

Conservative councillor Stuart Munro, executive member for business and economic development, said: “With ever-increasing pressure on our budget it’s critical that Wokingham Borough Council looks for opportunities to become more commercially minded and find ways to make the money we do have work better for residents.

“Our growing investment portfolio is a key part of this approach and is proving to be a real success seeing excellent returns for our residents.”

WBC bought the site from John Lewis & Partners and will lease the building back to the group for the next 20 years with two per cent annual increases, according to Property Week.

Cllr Munro said WBC is generating income of more than £2.6 million from the £47 million it invested last year.

One of those purchases was a tyre factory in Peterborough – a site located 110 miles from Wokingham.

Liberal Democrats Cllr Imogen Shepherd DuBey told the News opposition councillors only found out about the Waitrose purchase from a post in a Facebook community group rather than through WBC officers.

She added: “It is within the borough at least – it is better than the tyre factory in Peterborough, which didn’t make sense.

“What we are unconvinced about is whether we are going to make money and that seems to be the concern.

“It is probably far safer in the hands of the council than a property developer.”

The council’s property investment fund was given the green light by WBC’s top team in September 2017 and formally set up in early 2018.

A warchest containing £100 million of borrowed money was allocated to the fund for capital spending on commercial properties in a bid to generate extra revenue for council services.

Cllr Munro also said it was “key” to invest in property within Wokingham borough and claimed Waitrose would be a “strong tenant”.

He added: “As a council we remain very careful in seeking out the right opportunities to grow our investment fund.

“We work closely with a strong professional team to ensure we balance risk and reward in keeping with our approved strategy.

Results day: Students celebrate A-Level success

“Making sure that our purchases are spread across a wide range of sectors and tenants so we don’t have all our eggs in one basket.”