COUNCIL coffers have been boosted by Winsford Cross after the shopping centre made a profit in its first year of public ownership.

Cheshire West and Chester Council bought Winsford Cross for £19.75 million last February and began work on improving the crumbling shopping centre for current and future tenants – such as installing CCTV, fixing the roof and repairing windows.

That work appears to have paid off, as Winsford Cross made a £718,000 trading surplus for the council in 2018-19 – and while the council predicted a profit, the final result is better than it had expected.

Brian Clarke, former Wharton councillor, was cabinet member for economic development and infrastructure before retiring ahead of last month’s election.

“I am absolutely over the moon that we have achieved what we predicted,” he said.

Winsford Guardian:

“It just shows that Winsford is a positive move forward for us. This was a long-term plan, we are not in it for the short-term, and it is fantastic that the predictions are actually right for it.”

Winsford Cross made £1.76 million in rent in 2018-19, while the council spent £1.042 million on operational costs and loans for the shopping centre.

That £718,000 trading surplus will be added to a reserve earmarked for use on Winsford Cross – which will be used to repay the initial loan for the shopping centre and create a fund to pay off future debts, while any cash left over will be reinvested in Winsford’s regeneration.

It comes despite a challenging year for retail, which saw high street names close for good, and it contrasts the fortunes of Northwich’s Barons Quay – which made a £1.6 million loss in the same period.

Cllr Mike Baynham, Conservative member for Over and Verdin, believes the financial picture is ‘good news’ – but admits there is plenty of work that lies ahead for Winsford Cross.

Winsford Guardian:

“It shows that the shopping centre as it stands is quite well used and relative to other towns the number of shops is still quite high,” he said.

“The future development of the shopping centre will require far more money to come in from somewhere – whether that is taken from taxpayers, or through grants, or investments.

“Until we have got some firm plans, we are going on the right track as in the council is doing what it needed to do – pay the interest on the loan.

“And it is a surplus that the council can spend on improvements, which is good. Now we need the plan to see what happens next.”

CWAC began working with consultants last September on the next part of the regeneration plan, and the next round of consultation is due to take place.

Cllr Malcolm Gaskill, Liberal Democrat member for Swanlow, believes the council now needs to make swifter progress.

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He said: “Please don’t come back to us and say ‘we are consulting’ or ‘reviewing’ and all that. We have got to see something concrete – give us some sort of timetable.”