COUNCIL bosses in Bury plan to buy the Mill Gate shopping centre along with a developer in what is described as a ‘once in a generation’ chance to shape the future of the town centre.

Town hall chiefs say their vision is to ‘future-proof Bury town centre’ to complement The Rock nearby, and to redesign the shopping centre as other work goes on to improve the market and build a new ‘flexi-hall’ there.

The council are exploring a joint venture to acquire the Mill Gate estate with developer Bruntwood.

As well as the shopping precinct, the land set to be bought extends to Princess Parade, Minden Parade, and land next to Angouleme Way.

Documents put before the council’s cabinet this week seek approval for the early stages of the project.

The centre was bought by InfraRed from Aberdeen Asset Management in 2014 for £52m.

Since the acquisition, a further £20m has been spent improving the facility.

Detailed figures on the cost and borrowing requirements of any acquisition are set to be put before councillors in January.

A report by Paul Lakin, director of regeneration and economic growth to Bury’s cabinet, said: “The current owners of the Mill Gate informed the council of the intention to dispose of their interest.

“As the council is a major freeholder owner in the centre the opportunity to acquire the long-lease interest was offered.

“There is both a strong financial and regeneration case for an acquisition, on the basis that the council works alongside a highly skilled commercial investment partner with the skills and experience to realise a major redevelopment project.

” It is a large, covered shopping centre that occupies 15.2 acres of land and covers around 20 per cent of the town centre’s retail core.

“Rising vacancy rates will have a fundamental impact on the viability of the existing Millgate Centre but also creates a potential scenario where the remaining retail uses are spread across the town centre.

“It has been seen in town centres elsewhere that vacancy rates have created a cycle of decline that once established is very difficult to reverse.

“There is a compelling case for Bury Council to step-in and intervene to manage the transition from a retail-led centre to one with mixed food and drink, family leisure, visitor attractions, culture, and street markets.

“There is also a once in a lifetime opportunity for the council to work collaboratively with public sector bodies and potentially local education partners to create an inclusive, accessible town centre facilities that directly benefit the people of Bury.”

The report states that the Millgate is currently producing net income of approximately £3.64m per year.

Bruntwood have recently gone through a similar joint venture process with Trafford Council to acquire Stretford Mall.

Cllr Eamonn O’Brien, the authority's leader, said: “We want to have as part of the future of our town centre as much influence and control as we can so we’re shaping the future. This is also our strategy in Radcliffe and Prestwich.

“It’s an opportunity to take us up a gear, it’s on a larger scale.

“We’ve already seen success in our approach, success with the levelling up fund, success on the new Interchange, success in attracting a new hotel.

“We’re building off success and have one of the better performing town centres in Greater Manchester.

“The market, The Rock and Mill Gate are all popular destination for retail and leisure getting visitors from all over the region and beyond.

“We can have confidence in our intervention.

“The other thing that give me confidence is the track record of Bruntwood. They are a national leader in this type of work.

“They have made a massive contribution to the regeneration of Manchester.”