Written by Scott Campbell. EXCLUSIVE STORY.
Published at 13:24 GMT on Wednesday, 8th August 2012.
 
EXCLUSIVE: Ice House under offer as national retailer seeks a move to Cumbernauld; Cumbernauld Media drill through the story of St. Mungo's Road Retail Park


Picture is copyright of Bill Henry and is used on his courtesy.
OVER the past few days Cumbernauld Media have been attempting to find out why Cumbernauld’s St Mungo’s Road retail park is being allowed to decay.

With Cumbernauld’s image always seeming to be in negative terms our Scott Campbell decided to ask the retail unit owners why they vacated the premises and remain persistent in continuing their ownership – available for rent at a price of £100,000.

Three of the four units on St Mungo’s road continue to remain vacant; the former Ice House, General George Carpets and the Bed Shed.

History.

Cumbernauld’s B&Q unit closed down and moved to the new Westway Retail Park in 2006, with the Ice House closing in the 1990s. Since then, General George Carpets and the Bed Shed closed last year.

Since their closures, the unit which has seen the most criticism is the Ice House, which in the 1990s was sold off to make way for the bingo hall dream, which turned sour.

Later plans for the Ice Rink included plans by Bothwell businessman Raymond Codona to turn the property into a nightclub, an idea criticised ferociously by former Councillor, Betty Gemmell.

Since Codona’s failed 2006 plans, the unit has laid empty, only to be occupied once a year by a Christmas fare, operated by a relative of the unit’s owner. The area has been widely criticised as dismal, with windows boarded up, litter scattered over the area and the units’ signs trashed. The area only picked up by the opening of B&M Home Stores in 2010.

Planning.

North Lanarkshire Council’s eplanning system notes that there have been five planning applications made in relation to the retail units, between 2003 and now. The applications include a change of use and the construction of properties, which is now known as St Mungo’s Gate.

The second earliest application received by North Lanarkshire Council’s planning department was lodged on 21st February 2003, and is an application to change the use of the former Ice House to four additional retail units, with the same reason given for a similar application related to the Ice House, on May, 9th 2008.

The other three planning applications logged on the eplanning system are for the construction of three to five storey flat blocks, with the earliest application dating back to May 24th, 2000. All three applications were permitted and some of the blocks have already been constructed, with the street now officially named St Mungo’s Gate.

So history has seen Cumbernauld’s St Mungo’s Road go from town hotspot, to Cumbernauld’s shame, with idea after idea falling through. However, why can’t anything be done? Well, in private ownership, the rent and responsibility of the units’ remain in the jurisdiction of their owners, whilst the land around it remains North Lanarkshire Council owned; the only control the council have is planning. Rent rates of £100,000, for each of the three units, along with a £50,000 insurance deposit for the Ice House are probably not helping matters.

Contact.

Cumbernauld Media attempted to contact the relevant owners of the units.

Since starting our investigation, however, we have been unable to contact anyone at General George Carpets, with the business having no easy-to-reach contact details.

The Bed Shed, however, who are now Bensons for Beds, were horrified when we showed them pictures of the area and their Marketing Director, Carine Hodgkiss was only too happy to discuss the area and its problems.

Firstly we asked Carine about why Cumbernauld’s Bed Shed store closed, “…we merged three bed retail brands last year (Sleepmasters, Bensons for Beds and Bed Shed) to Bensons for Beds, and have now rebranded the majority of BedShed and Sleepmasters stores, with some stores unfortunately having to close,” Carine told us.

Cumbernauld Media then went on to ask about the rubbish and why nothing is being done to prevent the decaying of the exterior part of the building. “With the particular site, the landlord is responsible for the exterior of the building”, Carine said. Then, when Cumbernauld Media’s Scott asked why rents once totalled £100’000, Carine said: “I wouldn’t disagree that the rents are on the higher side at this location, however again, this is something to discuss with the landlord.”

Carine was then asked why the stores were boarded up and said that the Bed Shed unit’s windows were “boarded up due to vandalism” and said it was a “shame” as it seems to have “badly affected the image” of the area around it.

Ownership.

Carine then helped to shine some light on the retail park and its ownership.

It turns out that the area is not owned by North Lanarkshire Council, information which was already publically known, and it is not owned neither by the letting agencies; Culverwell Property Consultants for the old Bed Shed and General George Carpets, and Graham and Sibbald for the Ice House.

In fact, the old Bed Shed and the old General George Carpets units are owned by Stockland (Cumbernauld) Limited, which is the local trading name of Stockland Corporation Limited, a property group based and started in Australia, with properties throughout the world.

Ms Hodgkiss then told us that the lease on the Bed Shed unit ends this year, meaning that Bensons for Beds will no longer let the building, which they closed due to “poor performance” and a “cost effective” approach as the businesses merged. With this information, we approached Culverwell and found that the rent rates were now open to free offers, with a Culverwell spokesman telling Cumbernauld Media that they were “inviting offers.”

Development.

As eluded to earlier in this article, North Lanarkshire Council’s eplanning system notes that there have been five planning applications made in relation to the retail units, between 2003 and now.

Bensons for Beds’ Marketing Director Carine Hodgkiss, told us that they were constantly talking to their landlord – Stockland – about the prospect of redevelopment in the area but that it “…sadly never happened.”

We asked North Lanarkshire Council about the prospect of a refurbishment or redevelopment of area, and we were told that North Lanarkshire Council do not own the land but that their Regeneration and Infrastructure Services department work in close conjunction with all three town centre owners.

Companies House.

With the name of the company who own the old General George Carpets and Bed Shed units, in hand, we investigated the local trading company, Stockland (Cumbernauld) Limited.

Companies House notes that the company registered as a privately limited company on April 2nd 2007, and is currently active, with its classification being the ‘buying and selling of own real estate.’

Based in Glasgow, the company’s last accounts have been filed up to the 30th August 2011, with its current bank balance at £0, and its net worth at £23,000, which is made of its current liabilities (£4,891,000) minus its current assets (£4,914,000).

The Future.

After managing to piece the information together Cumbernauld Media’s Scott Campbell then managed to contact the owners of the unit which comprises of B&M, Bed Shed and General George Carpets. Scott talked to Alison Robertson, Asset Management Director who told us about the area, its problems and the solutions, “I am hopeful about the future of the area. I regularly hold meetings with the council and all other helpful parties.

“What the area needs is everyone to play a role in the area’s development and the council have been proactive when comes to the area, with Derek’s team more than willing to hold meetings with myself. We have even looked at improving the area.

“We don’t want to win a gold watch from this; we are being pragmatic about how we go about things, we want to improve the area and bring more business to Cumbernauld.

“I have been trying to organise a meeting with the owners of the old ice rink, as they are desperate to sell their interest in the building.

Cumbernauld Media can now exclusively reveal that a possible retailer is looking into moving into Cumbernauld’s Ice House, and Alison told us that she was “…trying to organise meetings with the property’s owners” to discuss how best to encourage the retailer to move in, “…which would improve the area”, Alison added.

“There is certainly high interest in the area and its units; we even have a retailer sniffing around the retail park and a visit was held recently”, Alison said.

“If everything falls into place, in six month, a new retailer could be moving in. I’m confident about it.”