OFFICES in Sheffield, a retail park in Lincoln and a warehouse in Stowmarket – what do these properties have in common?

They are all owned by Bracknell Forest Council (BFC), despite being hundreds of miles away from the borough.

Since early 2017, the authority has spent £81 million on buying commercial properties across the country in order to generate additional funds for its everyday services.

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The funding comes from borrowing and from money generated by the council selling some of its other properties.

Its biggest spend came in June 2017, when BFC purchased offices in Sheffield for more than £17 million.

Bracknell News:

Tenants DSG Retail Ltd runs tech brands including Dixons and Currys PC World from the 72,000 square foot Sheffield Parkway site and is set to pay upwards of £1.1 million in rent until 2029, according to sources.

Bracknell News:

Bracknell Forest Council was involved in a car parking dispute at one of its properties in Lincoln in February 2019, which it purchased for £11.9 million a year and a half earlier.

Valentine South retail park hosts shops such as Wren kitchens and The Range, and East Midlands shoppers were upset at the start of the year when some were slapped with parking fines of up to £100 after walking off the site to visit other nearby shops.

But according to LincolnshireLive, BFC reportedly instructed UKCPS, the company which runs the car park and employs car-parking staff who distribute the fines, to stop punishing its customers.

Bracknell News:

The authority is also the landlord for a warehouse in Stowmarket near Ipswich.

More than £11 million was spent on the property in February 2017 and is currently used by the transportation services company XPO logistics.

Bracknell News:

Three other properties have been purchased by BFC from 2017 to 2018, including office spaces in Southampton for £14.6 million, a warehouse in Redditch for £11 million, and office spaces in Northampton for £15.7 million.

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Despite this spend, council documents from July showed the authority no longer needs to spend millions on its investment strategy because it already generates the £3 million in income from leasing the properties it desired.

Stuart McKellar, Director of Finance at BFC, said: “We review all our services through our transformation programme, to ensure they are delivered in the most cost-effective way, while still meeting the needs of residents within the resources available to us.

“The Commercial Property Investment Strategy (CPIS) was agreed in 2016 as part of this programme.

“The aim of the CPIS is to generate additional income of £3m per year to support our front line services.

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“This figure has been achieved through acquiring commercial properties, we are not planning to purchase any further properties at this time.”