Who are the new owners of Preston’s £50m Capitol Centre
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The British Land Company, founded in 1856 as an offshoot of the National Freehold Land Society, was responsible for giving thousands of ordinary people access to a Parliamentary vote - something we all take for granted today.
Elections in the mid-19th century were restricted solely to male landowners. So the British Land Company bought up vast acres of land across the country and resold it in small plots to the public, giving more people right to go to the polls.
Eventually, as the law changed to allow more to participate in elections, the British Land Company switched its business model and began operating as a normal property investment company in the late 1800s. Today it is a FTSE 100 company with a £10bn portfolio of land and property - £2.1bn of that in retail parks.
The purchase last week of the Capitol Centre at Walton-le-Dale for £51.5m coincided the sale of its 50 per cent stake in Preston's Deepdale Retail Park for £30.3m in what the company says is part of its strategy of "actively recycling capital".
British Land has come a long way since the mid-1800s when the National Freehold Land Company - later to become Abbey National - was at the forefront of the movement to extend the right to vote in Britain. Now British Land is the largest owner/operator of retail parks in the UK. It is also regarded as one of Europe's biggest real estate investment companies.
Last year alone it acquired £350m of retail sites, compared to £49m in 2020/21. And the company is still a strong believer in the success of the retail park model despite the downturn in trade due to Covid and the switch to online shopping.
In its annual report for 2021/22 British Land said: "After a challenging few years, reflecting the structural shift to online and impact of Covid-19, there were signs of a pick-up in activity in retail occupational markets.
"Activity has been skewed towards retail parks which are more affordable and where footfall and sales are near pre-pandemic levels and in some cases ahead. However as we move into a more inflationary environment consumers will be more focused on value and occupiers will need to mitigate the impact of higher input costs."
Amongst British Land's tenants are most of the leading retail chains like Next, Boots, M&S, JD Sports, Curry's, Sainsburys, Asda, Tesco, River Island, Homebase and Primark.
The company has several office campuses in London, including Paddington Central and Regent's Place. In 2004 it received planning permission for a Richard Rogers designed skyscraper known informally as "The Cheese Grater" in the City of London. Construction of the tower, which is the sixth tallest building in the United Kingdom, was completed in 2014.
Outside the capital the British Land portfolio comprises 66 retail parks, including a 50 per cent stake in the Meadowhall shopping mall at Sheffield.
The company bought the Capitol Centre from long-time owners Royal London Asset Management, part of the Royal London Group which has £147.2bn of assets under its management. It sold its 50 per cent stake in Deepdale Retail Park to UK real estate investor Melford Capital.