Developer adds Peterborough shopping centre to growing retail portfolio

Nottingham property developer ALB Group has purchased a ‘depressed’ out-of-town shopping centre near Peterborough with a view to kickstarting its fortunes.

Ortongate Shopping Centre, in Orton Goldhay, four miles south-west of Peterborough, was placed on the market earlier this year following a 15-year struggle to fill vacant shop units.

ALB has now purchased almost 200,000 sq ft of the 225,000 sq ft retail site, for an undisclosed fee, continuing its drive to save down-trodden high streets and shopping centres across the UK.

Ortongate, with its excellent transport connectivity close to the A1, contains traders such as Wilko, Greggs and discount retailer QD Stores – but the majority of its units lie empty.

ALB now plans to spend £1m on improvements to the shell units and create a cheaper, more flexible rent structure for potential tenants with the aim of filling the centre with a new mix of independent traders and big-name national brands. The refurbishments will make the units easier to rent out and will vastly reduce any capital outlay required from new tenants.

The Nottingham firm has repeated this approach with great success in several other centres across the UK, including in Nottingham, Derby, Ipswich, Birkenhead and Huddersfield.

The developer has already agreed terms with new retailers on three of the vacant units at Ortongate Shopping Centre, almost before the ink on the main contract was dry.

Arran Bailey, owner and managing director of ALB Group, said: “High streets and retail centres up and down the country have been struggling hugely – even before many were decimated by the onset of Covid.

“But these centres are so important to their surrounding areas. It’s not just about shopping, it’s about socialisation, community, leisure and feeling good about where you live.

“Many property landlords have remained inflexible and have refused to move with the times.

“But we strongly believe that with a fresh approach to marketing and being far more flexible with the terms of our lease agreements, we can revitalise these centres and create a win-win situation for everyone. We all deserve better than we’ve been getting.”

ALB’s purchase agreement excludes the properties at Ortongate currently occupied by B&M, Iceland and the Co-op, but includes everything else at the site.

Built 15 years ago, the shopping centre serves a local population in Orton of around 30,000 residents as well as many more who take advantage of the good transport links and free parking spaces. Orton Goldhay is also home to the Environment Agency’s regional Anglian head office.

Arran Bailey’s reputation for championing UK high streets has been particularly hailed in his hometown of Nottingham, where he set out to transform the city’s Bridlesmith Gate area and create a vibe like London’s Carnaby Street.

After rewriting the rule book on tenancy agreements and commissioning lively street art and murals, Bridlesmith Gate is now full to capacity and thriving once again.

Similar results have been seen at Sailmakers Shopping Centre, in Ipswich, and numerous other UK locations owned by ALB Group.

Oliver Marshall, director of FHP Property Consultants, which is jointly marketing Ortongate’s vacant units for ALB with Prime Retail property agents, said: “Time and again Arran has proved to be the master at buying a depressed asset and revitalising it.

“With a combination of proactive marketing, making units accessible and in a fit and ready state to move in to, and taking a completely fresh view on lease contract, we are confident that ALB will soon turn around the fortunes on Ortongate Shopping Centre.

“Ortongate has been purchased in a slightly sorry state, but ALB is now spending money where it’s needed to create a much more attractive offer for retail or leisure businesses.”

ALB has achieved its success partly by ensuring contract terms were affordable and flexible enough to encourage small, independent and niche traders to add much-needed variety to their local retail centres. The firm also welcomes larger, national chains to set up stall alongside them, to provide a better choice for everyone.