Pendle Rise shopping centre owner 'prosecuted over site information'

The owner of Pendle Rise shopping centre in Nelson has been prosecuted for failing to provide information to Pendle Council in its moves to buy the site for regeneration.

However, a report for councillors states an agreement with the owner has since been reached.

Pendle Council believes it is making progress to gain full control of the mall. Gaining ownership of the land where the shopping centre is located has been one of the recent steps. The redevelopment is seen by Pendle Council as key to Nelson's wider regeneration. It plans to use some funds from the government-backed Nelson Town Deal to buy Pendle Rise.

But the price is confidential, according to a public version of a report to councillors. In the past, there have been disagreements over the site's value.

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A new report for Pendle Council's executive says a negotiated settlement has been reached with the owner to acquire the freehold interest. This relates to the land.

It states: "Currently, Pendle Rise is owned by a private landlord, Mohammed Asjad Arnold (Mr Asjad) who has interests in various companies where the actual property titles and his various interests are vested.

Pendle Rise shopping centre in Nelson
Pendle Rise shopping centre in Nelson -Credit:James Maloney/LancsLive

"A 2022 report provided a mandate for the purchase of Pendle Rise through a negotiated settlement with Mr Asjad. Discussions proceeded through 2023. At the same time, in line with the mandate for working towards a compulsory purchase order, a statutory requisition for information was issued. This was sent to Mr Asjad, the companies under his control and tenant businesses at Pendle Rise.

"Mr Asjad failed to respond to the Section 16 notices and was successfully prosecuted as a result, albeit he still failed to provide the requisite title information. Notwithstanding this, steady progress continued to be made in laying the ground for a negotiated settlement, with Axis Property Consultancy appointed to lead negotiations in early 2024.

"In line with the compulsory purchase order government guidance, Pendle Council funded an independent surveyor from Roger Hannah & Associates to represent Mr Asjad in negotiations. Axis, on behalf of the council, began negotiations with Roger Hannah & Associates. Mr Asjad subsequently dis-instructed Roger Hannah & Associates and took up negotiations directly with Axis.

"At the same time, following discussions with a government department, Pendle Council appointed solicitors, Eversheds, to represent the council through the parallel legal process of preparing for a compulsory purchase order."

A meeting was held between Mr Asjad, Axis and Pendle Council's chief executive and leader, where the council's 'firm intention' to use a compulsory purchase order was reiterated. Then a negotiated settlement was reached, the report adds.

After formal completion, Pendle Council will become owners of the shopping centre. A search for an experienced shopping mall operator was done by Penbrook Limited, a council joint venture partner, with council officers. Now councillors are being asked to allow a top council officer to appoint Beddows Ltd, selected as a preferred bidder, to operate the mall on behalf of the council once the purchase is complete.

Although Pendle Council will own Pendle Rise, a compulsory purchase order is still likely to ensure all other remaining interests can be acquired and vacant possession be obtained, according the report .

But it adds: "Officers think this process will be more straightforward with Pendle Council being the owner of Pendle Rise, rather than entering into a contested process with the current owner."

In the past, Mr Asjad defended his position regarding the value of the Pendle Rise and said he was willing to talk to Pendle Council. He also highlighted the development of a new McDonald's restaurant nearby, built on the site of the former Pendle Rise multi-storey car park.

Once Pendle Council owns Pendle Rise, it can look at remaining things such as telecom installations, existing tenants and historic land interests such as mines or minerals below,