New owner promises 'no plans to flatten and demolish' Liberty Shopping Centre in Romford

 RivingtonHark

RivingtonHark executive director Mark Williams (inset) and The Liberty Shopping Centre in Romford - Credit: Google/RivingtonHark

The buyer of The Liberty shopping centre in Romford has said there are "no plans to flatten and demolish it”, but offices, flats and leisure could be introduced.  

Last month, RivingtonHark announced the completion of its purchase of the 790,000 sq ft space on behalf of funds it managed. 

Executive director of RivingtonHark, Mark Williams, said the site was purchased because Romford has "huge potential as a town”.  

“It’s a very undeveloped greater London town. 

“The town clearly has had issues in terms of it isn’t the prettiest of towns, it’s got a level of vacancy in more generally, so at one level you’d say the town needs a bit of tender love and care, but we believe that the people of Romford both want and deserve a lot better.  

“They clearly have a strong sense of loyalty to their town and there is a clear need for better quality stuff and that includes better quality environment, place, space for independent retailers and occupiers, housing and offices.”  

Mr Williams told this newspaper the investment is “very sound” as “retailers trade very well” and RivingtonHark's overall aim is to “invest and improve” the centre. 

Consultations with Havering Council have already started, he said, while adjacent owners and occupiers are beginning to be consulted.

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Mr Williams said there aren’t plans for a wider consultation yet as the process is still in its early stages.  

“That said, we’re always welcome to feedback from anybody through the centre manager,” he added.  

Before the purchase was finalised, Mr Williams said it was decided that the “core quality" of the centre will be kept but the "place, activity and the animation of it” will be improved.

He said his team are looking at the "demand for space in all its formats”, and evaluating factors such as design, construction and cost while working with Havering Council to ensure plans are suitable. 

“It’s an iterative process and there’s a big team working on it and we’re focused on that over the next six months.” 

The core of the shopping centre will “always be prime retail space”, Mark promised, adding there are "no plans to flatten and demolish it”.  

He said: “It is a very successful best space in Romford, but there are still things we can do to improve it in terms of built environment, how it’s marked and how it’s presented to the public.” 

It’s the peripheral parts of the site which could change, Mr Williams said: “There’s a disused multi-storey car park for example.  

“There are two-poor linkways out to the market and there's an empty Littlewoods store that’s been empty for 15 years, so there are areas that need urgent attention, and I promise you that the Littlewoods will not be empty in 15 years' time.”  

Flats could be introduced to the site, Mr Williams confirmed.

“We’re looking at all options, and then once we’re in a position to go out for consultation, we’ll do that," he said.  

“Clearly there is demand and the possibility of doing offices, flats, leisure and other uses, so we’re going to evaluate all of those.”  

Mr Williams added: “Our mission is to ensure that every asset we touch and buy and invest in is improved as a result of our stewardship.

"That is our corporate mission, so we are not passive investors, we are active investors."

If its plan doesn't work for the population of Romford, the developer will have failed, he said.  

As part of the investment criteria, he said all changes will be both environmentally friendly and sustainable, and will be improved on an annual basis.  

Mark said he wants to “keep occupiers who are successfully trading”, because it would be “daft not to”.  

This comes after nearby The Brewery was sold for £162million to Schroders Capital's Schroder UK Real Estate Fund (SREF) and the Zurich Investment Foundation Immobilien Europa Direkt.

The Brewery’s new owner also spoke to this newspaper about its plan for the site, vowing to "enhance" the Romford centre.