A MAJOR company is set to move into the former Marks and Spencer unit in Golden Square to boost Warrington’s high street.

The town centre site has remained empty since the retail giant shocked the town and closed the store back in July 2017.

But the Warrington Guardian can reveal council chiefs are aiming to thrash out a deal as part of a bid to bring in a new tenant.

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Marks and Spencer currently has a 125-year lease, with no break, for the unit – with 84 years still to go.

It pays £50,000 a year ground rent to the council but is offering to buy that for £1.8 million.

The building could then be sold on.

Warrington Guardian:

Council bosses are keen to find a new tenant for the unit to help boost Golden Square and to ensure the building does not remain empty in the long term.

There are concerns about the impact on the town if the unit stayed vacant, particularly with uncertainty around the future of Debenhams – currently situated in one of the other major units in Golden Square.

The authority is understood to be in talks with a major high street retailer, but its name remains a closely guarded secret.

On Monday, the executive board is recommended to approve the Marks and Spencer move to buy out the lease.

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In his report, council leader Cllr Russ Bowden says it will enable the retail property to be brought back into ‘viable economic use’ while generating income to the council.

Warrington Guardian:

“The UK high street retailing sector has suffered a considerable economic downturn in recent years,” he said.

“Influenced by the growth of online shopping, changing cultural trends to leisure activity and people seeking better value and experiences, traditional high street retailing is struggling.

“Town centres across the UK have seen increases in empty property and former shops being left vacant as some high-profile business failures and rationalisation of high street presence takes effect.

“Although Warrington has not seen the level of empty shops that some neighbouring towns in the north west have suffered, high-profile retail closures have impacted on our town centre and the high street.”

Cllr Bowden (LAB – Birchwood) also believes the council has a key role in ‘protecting our high street tradition’ and ‘improving the environment’ for the future of Warrington.

He added: “This opportunity, if delivered, will support and enhance our current town centre offer while also providing best financial value to the council.”

Financial details and risks will be discussed in part two in private at Monday’s Town Hall meeting