Monday, December 01, 2008

A Bit Of WGC History (or the battle of the shopping malls!!)

The Howard Centre

The Galleria.

In my previous posts I have explained how my local council is responsible for two towns, Welwyn Garden City and Hatfield, along with several smaller villages . Hatfield has always considered itself to be the poor neighbour, its been the industrial town of the two responsible for the development of the Comet aircraft and the British Aerospace 146.
My story involves the controversy surrounding the construction of two shopping centres, The Howard centre in WGC and the Galleria in Hatfield.

Back in the late 1980's the council were anxious to redevelop part of town centre in WGC, they wanted a new railway and bus station and a few more shops wouldn't go amiss, so they entered into negotiations with the biggest construction business in the UK at the time, Slough Estates.
While negotiating a deal to provide all the things mentioned above for WGC, they were also dealing with a rival firm, The Carroll Group to provide a shopping centre in nearby Hatfield.
Because of the close proximity of the towns, Slough estates negotiated a Tenant Mix agreement (TMA) with the council. This was to enable both centres to attract different types of shops and restaurants.The Howard centre was to have traditional High street shops and restaurants and the Galleria was to be geared more to entertainment, restaurants, cinemas and outlet shops.

The council was keen to have both developments the site of the proposed Galleria was on top of a tunnel which had been constructed to take the A1M underground and the area on top was perfect for shops. The Howard centre addressed the station problems. Slough Estates were playing hardball and wouldn't agree to the development until the council signed the TMA, this they did. Both sites went ahead and eventually opened at almost the same time in 1990/1. It was at this point that it came to light that the council had been doing a bit of underhand dealing and while agreeing the TMA with Slough they agreed the exact opposite with the Carroll group. This resulted in Slough taking the council to the High court for damages.

Slough won and was awarded 48 million in damages!! The chances of the council being able to pay that was remote, there were limits as to what could be paid from the public purse, and the council only held reserves of 2 million pounds. So Slough Estates won a moral victory and few a few years we suffered the reduction in events such as fireworks.

Incidentally both places are now thriving shopping centres and The Howard centre DOES have more traditional shops and The Galleria is an outlet centre!!

Update ...... I have done a little more digging to try and find out exactly what money changed hands in the end. It seems that prior to the court case the council were offered an out of court settlement for 16 million pounds but shose to ignore it. They didn't pay all the money awarded but they did pay a huge chunk of it and they way they managed it was to use reserves and to 'sell' all their stock of council houses to a housing association releasing capital. They were limited to only using 25% of that money raised, by government legislation. They eventually settled with Slough Estates for 29 million pounds.


Sepiru Chris said...

Did Slough Estates

(Digression. Presumably the slough of Slough Estates is pronounced like the Slough in London, rhymes with "cow"? Unlike the slough found in the Canadian prairies, which rhymes with "through". Interestingly, the Canadian slough is a dirty, man-made watering hole which can be dangerous to your health to enter... sound familiar when compared with the London version...?)

OK, let me restart, did Slough Estates abandon their judgment against your council? Or was a post-judgment settlement negotiated?

It seems curious to me, and I would be curious to know...


Sepiru Chris said...

Very interesting, and thanks for the update at the end regarding how the settlement looked. Sometimes convincing your client to settle is the best thing you can do for them, although some clients hate to hear the word settle.


debra said...

Seems like underhandedness knows no boundaries. We've certainly had our share in these parts, too.

pattinase (abbott) said...

The new trend here is for outdoor malls, which I strongly prefer despite the cold. Never enough light inside.

Debbielou said...

Well I never knew that !!

Travis Erwin said...

Should've settled for 16. Like Pattie said, the trend in my area is toward outdoor malls.

Louise, that's me!! said...

Hmmmm looks like the council was a bit slow on it not accepting 16.

Barbara Martin said...

They should have taken the 16... I agree with the previous commenters, except for Chris.

He has Canadian sloughs mixed up with something entirely different.
A slough is a natural pond without drainage.

A dugout is a man-made watering hole and if the person owning the dugout keeps the hole clear of noxious weeds and plants, then it is quite safe to swim in or keep fish.

Sorry, Lyzzydee, to run rampant over your comment section, but sometimes corrections are in order.

Alexandra said...

WOW!!! It's amazing what big corporations will do!! *STAMPIN HUGS* Alex