The auctioneer who sold Queens Arcade yesterday says he expects the sale to mean a new start for the Victorian arcade in Hastings town centre.
Sam Kinloch from Clive Emson Land and Property Auctioneers was not able to confirm the identity of the new owners but was able to say that the buyers are property investors and they own a number of similar arcades around the country and have no plans to change the character of Queens Arcade.
Mr Kinloch believes new ownership will mean a new start for the arcade that was first opened in 1882 and boasts that it was the birthplace of television.
Originally listed by the auctioneers with a guide price of £325,000 the arcade sold for £461,000 – £136,000 more than expected. There was considerable interest in the property from a number of bidders which also drove the value higher than expected.
Mr Kinloch explained that several factors came together to make the arcade an attractive proposition. The existing owners, the Went Tree Trust, were keen to sell quickly and the existing tenants in the arcade are all keen to remain there so a buyer was able to be confident about the income levels they would be able to achieve.
While many local people have feared that the sale of Queens Arcade would have seen it closed, its character changed or even be demolished and redeveloped the man who sold it believes the opposite will be true and its new owners – who will be revealed in due course – will actually invest in the property and deal with outstanding repair and maintenance issues: “Its going to be well managed in future,” he told Hastings In Focus.
It was the speed of the sales process that caught many people off guard and raised many concerns about what the future would hold for the arcade. It’s just three weeks since it was announced that the property was on the market which left no time to put together a community effort to acquire it or even to gauge interest in such a move. Looking at the financial records of the Went Tree Trust, the parlous state of its finances is likely to have been the catalyst that sparked the sales process
Those who expressed concern about the sale of the arcade included local MP Sally-Ann Hart and Councillor Judy Rogers, who represents the Hastings Borough Council ward in which the arcade falls.
Mrs Hart said last week: “Like the traders and I am sure many residents in our town, I am disappointed to see the sale of this landmark building go ahead.
“There were serious questions for the Went Tree Trust to answer and the speedy process took many traders by surprise, offering them no time to respond and act.
“I had tried to seek resolution with an extension to the auction giving time for questions and queries to be dealt with, it is a shame this did not happen.
“I will of course work with the traders and new owners to ensure that this landmark in our town centre continues to be a hub for high quality, popular independent businesses that locals and visitors alike love to visit and support.”
Ms Rogers said: “I have been aware for some years that there have been issues with the Went Tree Trust and concerns that some of the repairs and maintenance to the arcade and the building above have not been carried out.
“Three or four years ago I contacted the Trust and Heringtons who administer the trust to try and get the works done with little or no response.
“The businesses made contact with me a few days after they had received a communication from the trustees to say that the arcade was to be put up for sale by auction on March 24th. This was around three weeks ago so there was no real time to take actions… I have asked (council) officers to start the process of registering the arcade as an Asset of Community Value (ACV) which is underway but clearly cannot be completed before the auction.
“I am also trying to find out how we can get the arcade listed which it currently is not.”
This morning Ms Rogers said: “I truly hope that the new owners will work with and listen to the businesses in the arcade and also local people. The arcade needs to be on the map as a place to visit and admire. The Castle Ward team hope the new owners will engage with us to ensure that this jewel in Hastings crown is celebrated and enjoyed by all.
“In a sense it is a waiting game to see who the new owner is and to get to meet and talk to them to see what are their plans for the arcade.
“I think we carry on with pursuing the ACV status and also look at getting it listed to give it the best protection we can for the businesses and the town. It needs to be a place that residents and visitors go to and not the hidden gem it currently is.”
And town centre manager John Bownas added: “We are keen to talk to the new owners about how we might be able to capitalise on the history of this valuable heritage asset and ensure that trade is maximised for the shops and businesses in the arcade.”
The Trust was created by the Will of Ben Harry Went Tree who died in 1927 with the objective of providing grants to local people who wanted to emigrate to ‘Commonwealth Countries’ and also to provide grants for the purchase of artefacts for the Hastings Museum.
In recent years it has been haemorrhaging cash and the most recent accounts published by the Charities Commission indicate the trust had to write off a substantial debt, a note in the accounts says: “The Trustees have decided after taking independent legal advice that it would not be in the best interests of the Charity to pursue Halifax for the rent arrears of £45,375 because the costs associated with recovering the arrears would not be economic. During the year to January 21st 2019 £45,375 was written off…”
Queens Arcade and its role in the invention of television… click the link below…