Camberley Town Centre Debacle

Too bad no one told the CEO and the leader of the Council that the game for Camberley’s White Elephant Town Centre is already over, at least with this lot at the helm… Under their sterling leadership for the last 2 decades, the once vibrant Town Centre has descended to one of the worst in the UK. In this latest press release proclaiming the majestic victory for the Council’s acquisition of the whole thing, is their list of superlative elite national retailers. With the exception of the House of Frasier who’s just announced a 46% plunge in profits, the rest are mostly a laundry list of bottom feeding discount brokers. They think shoppers are going to return? To what?

The teaming corridors of the Atrium at lunch time Thursday - not...
The teaming corridors of the Atrium at lunch time Thursday – not…

I made a serious mistake in agreeing to support the acquisition of the Town Centre, but I can no longer give it any support with this current management. Here are the central issues:

1-6 months ago, the owners Capital & Regional were told by their board to unload the Camberley Town Centre, as it was a loser. Imagine their glee when Surrey Heath came in with the unsolicited offer of £90 Million? To be fair, they had invested £150 Million over a decade, or so we we were told, but as was usual in this, we were presented almost no evidence of anything regarding its’ actual value. Bottom line, it’s a dog, you wouldn’t invest yours or your parents retirement to buy it… It should only be allowed to go forward if each of the Council’s management and all the Council’s executive puts all their person pensions into this bowser.

2-all the Council has done by borrowing all this money is to get control of the same loser that C&R could not make work. And the Council’s solution? Run it with a land company comprised of the leader and deputy leader. If you add their total experience of running a retail establishment along with that of the management of the Council, you get approximately the same composite level of experience of my Labradour Murphy. Although Murphy will wag his tail and sit if you offer him a biscuit… No case has been made, nor can it be made that there is any possible formula for tail wagging here…

3-All this money is borrowed, cheaply, but borrowed nonetheless. The Council has decided to put its hand in the pocket of every resident of Surrey Heath, all 87,000 of us, and load each of us each with £1,000 of debt. And when they make a hash of it, then guess who is going to pay for it??? You guessed it, you are… But they’re not done, they need to put their hands in your other pocket, because they are going to need another £1,000 from each of us to build it out… If you see your local Councillor at the door with his/her credit card machine, lock the door and run…

4-this is not the first dance that this leader and her executive have tried to take us to. 2 years ago, they and their consultants, Montagu Evans were engaged in this bizarre delusion that they were bringing John Lewis to the Camberley Town Centre. This fantasy delusion cost the voters £500,000, what a great success that was… And now as a reward for their failure, these consultants have been awarded an even bigger deal, £2 Million (or so I understand).

5-In looking at the population and growth of Surrey Heath, Network Rail has looked carefully at the situation and decided to grow it’s service to Waterloo from 3 trains at rush hour to 1. They just look at the numbers, and they will tell you that Camberley’s future is already here, it is as good as it is going to get with this White Elephant management, no more…

So, do what you want, but the voters in Surrey Heath need to do everything possible to keep any strange intrusions from their pockets…

One Reply to “Camberley Town Centre Debacle”

  1. You’re unfair to the town centre in describing it as ‘one of the worst’. It isn’t. But nor is it on the way to achieving the council’s preposterous ambition to turn it into a ‘Top 100 town’. Also, unless published figures are wrong, CapReg paid Scottish Amicable Life Assurance Society £130m in 2005 to acquire the lease on Main Square. Later they paid £10m-ish to acquire the Allders building. So – if we stretch the definition of ‘decade’ slightly – CapReg will have invested at least £150m in Camberley. But, where you’re decidedly right, the borough council has demonstrably failed to deliver many of its promises about the town centre for decades. It’s failed to implement low-hanging-fruit improvements like changing sign-posts that point to the Civic Hall – which the theatre hasn’t been called for over a quarter of a century. Its management oversight of its existing town centre property – namely Main Square car park – is woefully inadequate. The vibes for its ability to manage any new project are poor. What particularly worries me is that a number of councils are going down the same ‘borrow to invest’ route. If things go wrong, they can point to each other and say that what they’d done was perfectly reasonable. (I stress, I hope that it doesn’t go wrong – but the comfort of following the crowd encourages unwise investment.)


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