THE WOKINGHAM Borough Council (WBC) has recently announced it has bought the Waitrose building in the Woodley Town Centre.

The news was revealed to residents on December 1, costing the WBC a total of £9.65 million, and will include the Waitrose Foodstore, the New Look shop unit, and the service land and associated access to the site.

Despite the buy, the site will continue to be leased by Waitrose.

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Wokingham Cllr Stuart Munro, executive member for business and economic development, said: “Waitrose is a fantastic business and, like so many foodstores, have continued to trade strongly over the last year despite the impact of Covid-19.”

“We were very pleased when the opportunity came up to purchase the site. Not only is it a great financial investment that will help us fund essential services for residents, it is also an important strategic site which will help us better support the town centre for years to come.”

Jamie Naughton, of Edgerley Simpson Howe who provided specialist property advice to the council on the purchase, said: “The foodstore sector has been extremely resilient and reacted exceptionally well to the global pandemic with much of the sector seeing strong performance.

"We also see a great opportunity going forward in local centres, such as Woodley, to accommodate and benefit from the longer term changes to working practices.

“The purchase of Waitrose is an excellent opportunity for the council to benefit from this. It has also given the council control of an important anchor tenant within Woodley centre and brings the foodstore and Crockhamwell Road car park under one ownership.”

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Cllr Munro continued: “Projects like the investment programme are really coming into their own and are critical in helping the council fund local services whilst the country continues to work its way through the current crisis.

“We’ve used a similar financial model to our town centre regeneration project where, rather than using tax payer funds, the investment fund needs to be self-supporting with income from tenant rents used to pay the cost of buying and maintaining the sites whilst any surplus income comes back to the council.

“So far it’s proving a great success with our investments already generating around £1m profit a year and set to grow to over £1.5m following our latest purchases.

"And bear in mind that this is all extra money, which isn’t dependent on council tax or government grants, and contributes to the funding of key council services like local care and improving our roads."