Stockport Council response to FOI request relating to the Produce Hall

Since the announcement of the successful bidder in November 2017, the area has gone from strength to strength

The Produce Hall in Stockport’s Market Place has proved to be extremely popular and has been instrumental in attracting many visitors to the town centre not just from the local area, but from across Greater Manchester and beyond.

It has also been the catalyst for other businesses moving to Stockport, which all contribute to a vibrant town centre, creating jobs and supporting the local economy.

We are committed to seeing the Market Place and Underbanks transformed. The Market Place is emerging as a hub for food and drink in Stockport with award winning bars and restaurants.

Since the announcement of the successful bidder in November 2017, the area has gone from strength to strength with seven new food and beverage businesses in the area, as well as the Produce Hall and Blackshaws café and nine new independent retailers.

This is in addition to the three independent operators who have been introduced into the Produce Hall and our recent Purple Flag award in recognition of Stockport’s thriving night-time economy.

The Produce Hall in its first six months has sold 13,000 burgers, 15,000 pizzas and even 5,000 portions of patatas bravas. It has created 50 new jobs, including 23 jobs for returners to work.

The letting of the Produce Hall also reduced the loss that it was making for the Council in the region of £30,000 per annum. This was as a result of it only being about a third occupied.

We now want to build on this even further. The Market Place sits at the heart of our Town Centre Living Strategy and the Council has:

  • Allocated £7m of investment to regenerate the Market Place and Underbanks, as well as an additional £2m of Heritage Lottery Funding;
  • Invested £45m to develop the highly successful Redrock, which has seen the Light Cinema expand and add two new screens;
  • Purchase of the former BHS store in Merseyway;
  • £6.8m Bee Network proposal to upgrade Heaton Norris bridge linking Heaton Norris Park with Stockport Town Centre;
  • Recently completed a consultation on the Merseyway Adlington Walk proposals;
  • Jointly funded the £120m Stockport Interchange, a scheme which will redevelop the bus station, add a 2-acre park on top as well as providing residential accommodation;
  • Set aside £100m to aid the development of the Town Centre West Mayoral Development Corporation.

In 2017, the Council undertook a search for a tenant for the Produce Hall in order to boost the transformation of the Market Place, Underbanks and the wider town centre leisure offer.

Cllr David Meller, Cabinet Member for Economy and Regeneration at Stockport Council, said:

“I understand the Produce Hall has been quite divisive for some. But behind this is a unifying theme: everyone passionately wants a town centre we can all be proud of. The question is ‘What’s the best way to get there?’

“I really believe the approach we’ve taken is working. The Produce Hall has created jobs, many of which have gone to those returning to work. We’ll see a solid return on our investment and we have a building that’s increased in value.

“But perhaps most importantly, the Produce Hall has helped give our Market Place a new lease of life: visit on a weekend and you’ll now see how busy it is.

“People from across Greater Manchester are now discovering what Stockport has to offer and this will only grow as other projects, such as the Mayoral Development Corporation, get underway.

“This is an exciting time for our borough and there’s so much more to come. Stockport is seen nationally as a model for how regeneration can be done: it’s putting people’s needs first and giving our town a new sense of identity and purpose.

“We’re now stepping out of Manchester’s shadow and realising the huge potential our borough has.

“The Produce Hall is one piece of a rather big jigsaw we’re putting together. I welcome the scrutiny and look forward to trying to work with others to deliver a town centre we can all be incredibly proud of.”

Since the inception of the project, the total amount invested in the Produce Hall development by Stockport Council is £884,178.43. This is an asset owned and retained by the Council who will get significant long-term benefit from the majority of this spend.

This can be broken down as follows:

  1. Structural, mechanical and electrical work: £491,260.89;
  2. Fit out work: £118,068.53;
  3. Kitchen equipment (for which the Council retains title): £163,625.77;
  4. Design, planning and project management fees: £83,357.11;
  5. Legal, marketing and agency fees: £27,866.13.

Over 95% of this spend was with businesses based in Greater Manchester and has helped to support the wider local economy.

This spend was funded from the £7m budget for projects in the Markets and Underbanks area. This has not been funded by any Council Tax monies.

Given the size, age and heritage nature of the building, some of the proposals which were put forward were felt to be unrealistic in the level of spend required.

The return on the building has two elements. The first is the rent it will generate which we believe is in the region of £1.5m over the next fifteen years. In addition, there has been a significant increase in the value of the Council asset as a result of this work.

The second is in the wider context of the Town Centre Living approach: improving the cultural offer, attracting young people and professionals and making the town centre an attractive destination. It is therefore difficult to put an exact value on the Produce Hall if it helps to deliver all those benefits.

Finally, on the question of due diligence, the Council carried out the same level of due diligence that it would on any property investment of this kind and this was applied to all of the bidders in the same way. This included an Equifax check of their credit history, taking professional advice from our agents on the track record of the bidders and went through the Council Scrutiny Committee and Cabinet.
All the bids for the Produce Hall were scrutinised by a panel, which included two senior officers of the Council with extensive property and development experience and a regional director for a major UK bank who provided experience into the likely success of business plans and models.

On appointment of the successful tenant, the Council continued to work with them through the design process and contractor procurement and management to ensure a cost-effective solution.