Middlesbrough's House of Fraser closed in 2022. Credit: Place North

Middlesbrough set to sign off asset sales

Along with the Zetland car park, the council wants to sell the town’s House of Fraser store, where plans for a music and cultural hub have advanced this year.

Details of buyer and price are yet to be revealed, with Middlesbrough Council’s executive due to consider the process on 13 March.

The retail building has now been empty for 18 months, and the council’s executive was asked at its 14 February meeting to rubber-stamp the plans to open a cultural and music destination at the Linthorpe Road site.

Middlesbrough’s £20m Levelling Up Fund allocation would be tapped into for a £2m funding slug to enable the project.

Place North East understands that the disposal will, in time, enable a third party to deliver the renovation and reuse of the 129,000 sq ft House of Fraser building, with the LUF programme playing a complementary role, specifically relating to improving the sustainability credentials of a large and relatively old building.

As many councils are, Middlesbrough is feeling the strain of spending cuts, and in November last year the executive signed off a report on a capital receipts strategy, in essence a policy to agree with the sale of council property if that sale either funds investment in projects, helps cut council debt or allows investment in infrastructure.

As outlined in the papers for next week’s meeting, “the asset review report agreed by Executive on 21 November 2023 therefore recommended a significant programme of asset sales be brought forward, in addition to the existing pipeline of land and properties being brought forward for disposal”.

The 129,000 sq ft HoF building has running costs of around £100,000 a year. The car park offers 739 parking spaces, and was built in 1989 close to Middlesbrough railway station.

Both HoF and the Zetland car park have been targeted by a credible buyer. Knight Frank and Algin Property Services have vouched that the price being offered reflects the current market value in a diminished retail landscape.

Both sales need to be wrapped up by the end of March to be registered in the current financial year. The sale of the car park underlines that it must remain in operation with that use for at least five years.

House of Fraser traded the site as Binns up until 2006, before branding it in line with other group shops. Following the Fraser takeover by Mike Ashley in 2018, the store finally closed in June 2022.

Middlesbrough Council bought the store for a reported £1m in 2020, at the same time as it acquired the Captain Cook shopping centre.

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