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Mayor promises "the best" for Watford residents as Charter Place redevelopment gathers pace
Watford’s elected mayor has hailed the progress being made towards the long-awaited redevelopment of Charter Place.
Mayor Dorothy Thornhill said she felt Watford residents were going to get "the best" from the planned £80million revamp of the aging shopping centre in High Street.
Her comments come after the company behind the renovation project, Capital Shopping Centres, which operates the Harlequin, unveiled its plans for Charter Place today.
As well as a digital mock-up of the new centre, CSC announced it wants a new cinema as well as leisure facilities and a food retailer.
Mayor Thornhill said: "We’re very fortunate that while shopping centre schemes up and down the country are floundering, ours is progressing. We have an excellent partner in Capital Shopping Centres, who share our aspirations for the town.
"The bottom line for me is that Watford residents deserve the best and I’m confident they’re going to get it."
Watford Borough Council, which owns Charter Place, is currently negotiating the terms of a 999-year lease on it with CSC which has run the Harlequin Shopping Centre, which adjoins Charter Place, on a similar basis for around 24 years.
In October, the council’s ruling cabinet agreed to lease Charter Place to CSC in return for an annual income of £1.8m. The borough will also receive seven per cent of any profits made from the shopping centre.
As part of the deal, the council will also get back control of four town centre car parks – the Gade, Palace, Sutton and Church - which were handed to CSC as part of the original Harlequin deal. They will then be able to be refurbished and have their fees set by the council.
The recent momentum towards the Charter Place renovation comes after a decade of setbacks for the projects.
CSC was appointed the council’s original developer for the project back in 2003 but was dismissed five years later when councillors failed to agree with any of its plans.
Then in 2011 a second developer, London and Regional, pulled out of the Charter Place project and another, Henry Boot, appointed in its place.
However in June, the council terminated its agreement with Henry Boot after CSC indicated it was interested in the project again.
It cost £540,000 to pay Henry Boot off, but the council defended the move saying it was much better to have the owners of the Harlequin take over the neighbouring Charter Place, rather than a rival.