HATTERS Row will cost the council almost £10.5 million over the next century as it is locked into an extraordinary £109,000-a-year lease deal, a Warrington Guardian investigation has revealed.

Warrington Borough Council had initially been renting the shopping site, on Horsemarket Street, from Northscene Limited, a subsidiary of Satnam Investments Limited.

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Following Freedom of Information requests, the authority confirmed it has a lease deal with Northscene dated back to January 1989.

But it did not pay any money to take over or buy the town centre site.

As part of the arrangement, the council agreed to pay a rent of £109,000 per year to Northscene.

The deal runs for an astonishing 125 years – without a break clause, which effectively locks the council into the arrangement until the year 2114.

However, payments for Hatters Row are now being made to Manchester and Provincial Car Parks Limited.

In its latest accounts, filed on Companies House for the year ending June 2017, Manchester And Provincial Car Parks is listed as ‘a wholly owned subsidiary’ of Satnam Investments Limited.

And the Warrington Guardian has obtained information revealing the true scale of the losses facing the council.

In 2011-12 – which was the furthest year the authority could provide figures for – the council made £44,885 in income from Hatters Row, £8,838 in 2012-13, £30,753 in 2013-14, £39,701 in 2014-15, £13,669 in 2015-16, £33,376 in 2016-17 and £43,123 in 2017-18.

Therefore, the council has made a staggering £548,655 loss from the site since 2011-12.

Warrington Guardian:

Hatters Row

The £109,000-a-year rent payments for the council will cost it £10,464,000 over the next 96 years.

Chief executive Steven Broomhead has raised serious concerns over the deal.

He said: "In 2012, I gave this arrangement strong scrutiny and requested the auditors to do the same.

"The deal that was agreed was not commercially advantageous for the council and I was most surprised that this arrangement had been made.

"Unfortunately, those individuals who were involved in this are no longer with us, they have deceased.

"The council will continue to work hard to ensure that Hatters Row plays its part in the new investment and vibrancy of our rapidly changing town centre."

Cllr Bob Barr, leader of the town's Liberal Democrats, said the year on year losses that the borough council has been making on Hatters Row 'are a cause for concern'.

He added: "However, keeping small businesses in the town centre in small units at affordable rents is better than allowing Horsemarket Street to go the same way as Bridge Street.

"It should be up to the new business improvement district board, in collaboration with Warrington and Co, to consider the best future use for Hatters Row as the town changes over the next few years.

"If the current owners of the site are found to be uncooperative then a way needs to be found to make sure that the area is used so that it benefits the whole town."

The authority remains hopeful of turning the site into a success.

A spokesman said: "The council seeks to achieve the best possible return from Hatters Row and has led and supported a number of initiatives over recent years, providing income generation and opportunities for small, local businesses to operate in a town centre environment.

"Thirty years ago, the council committed to a long-term legal contract.

"We continue to explore ways to maximise income from the site, mitigate any financial loss and stimulate local business growth."

Companies House states Manchester And Provincial Car Parks has an 'outstanding' legal charge for Hatters Row, with the 'persons entitled' listed as Barclays Bank.

Although the legal charge was delivered in 2007, it is still listed as 'outstanding'.

However, Companies House confirmed there is no mandatory requirement to notify Companies House if, or when, a charge has been ‘satisfied’.

In February 2017, the council's development management committee refused Satnam Millenium Limited's plans for 1,200 homes on Peel Hall.

The public inquiry appeal against the decision to refuse the masterplan for the site was officially closed in writing earlier this month.

Satnam Millenium Limited’s parent company is Satnam Investments Limited, according to its latest filed accounts up to June 30 last year, submitted to Companies House.

Satnam did not wish to comment.