PLANS for a go-kart track, bowling alleys and other state-of-the-art leisure attractions at the former BHS site in Tunbridge Wells have been scrapped after the owner of Royal Victoria Place (RVP) refused to approve the planes.
Elite Leisure Collection (ELC), which also owns One Media, publisher of The Times, was planning the £10million attraction to the empty unit, said they were now looking at venues outside the city center to open the leisure complex.
Plans for the BHS unit, which has stood empty since 2016 when the high street retailer collapsed, were to feature the latest modern attractions over three floors, including a 240m go-kart track, cinema, some number of bowling alleys and the latest virtual reality games.
The project was expected to attract thousands of people to the city center each week and create up to 50 full-time and part-time jobs.
But British Land, which bought RVP in 2018 for just under £100m, wanted “an unachievable level of influence” over ELC’s proposed plans, including vetoing some proposed leisure activities for the site.
While the UK land does not own the retail unit previously owned by BHS, as M&G Real Estate operates the lease and has agreed to sell the site, landlord RVP owns a 5% stake in the unit where it is backed by the shopping center. .
“British Land, the owners of the RVP required an unachievable level of influence and control over the various activities we wanted to install”
Andrew Daniells, Commercial Director at ELC, told The Times: “The freehold purchase of 95% of the derelict BHS unit had been agreed, the lease agreement for the remaining 5%, which relates to the ‘rear’ areas of the house” of the Royal Victoria Place and a small part of the storefront space adjoining the shopping center were the stumbling blocks.
“British Land, the owners of the RVP required an unwieldy level of influence and control over the various activities we wanted to set up, which would have created an incredible family leisure location.
“We have hired the best consultants, specializing in the conversion of disused commercial units into high-tech leisure and restaurant destinations.
“It’s back to the drawing board and our officers are now looking at other location options.”
British Land’s decision comes after they also suspended an £80million RVP redevelopment proposed by former owner Hermes when they took over the reins of the flagship Tunbridge Wells shopping center four years ago.
In January, The Times also revealed how the food hall, Central Market, which British Land had set up in derelict Ely Court to breathe new life into the centre, had collapsed.
Over the past two years, the commercial owner has refocused its retail strategy after being forced to wipe £1billion from its portfolio as a result of the pandemic.
The owner has sold numerous retail sites, including a recent 75% stake in Paddington Central in London.
It is also in talks with rival landlord Landsec to swap ownership of some of its shopping centers for out-of-town shopping parks, including its flagship Meadowhall shopping center in Sheffield.
British Land declined to comment on its objection to the ELC plans.
The commercial lessor also declined to confirm or deny whether it plans to sell the mall or have it redeveloped.