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Politics Swansea West Wales

Hopes for new tenants for Swansea Debenhams by end of this year, leader says

The empty Debenhams store at Swansea's Quadrant Shopping Centre (Pic: Richard Youle)

THE LEADER of Swansea Council said he hoped new tenants for the city’s Debenhams store, which the authority is paying business rates for, would be secured by the end of this year.

Cllr Rob Stewart had been asked at a meeting of full council about a Labour Party leaflet which listed 24 things for 2024, including Debenhams. Opposition councillor Stuart Rice said that, according to the leaflet, there would be some tenants and some shops at the vacant store at the Quadrant Shopping Centre in 2024.

Cllr Rice, of the Uplands Party, said it was a “great update”. He added: “So I take it it’s going to happen within the next nine months?”

Swansea Labour leader, Cllr Stewart, said he would certainly hope that tenants could be secured in that time, and that council officers and agents were working on this. But he said that work would then have to take place to reconfigure the building to accommodate new occupiers, especially if there was more than one of them.

“But certainly, as has been reported to council previously, we are in active discussions with a number of potential tenants at the present time,” added Cllr Stewart.

The council bought the Debenhams store after the high street retailer went into administration, and it became liable for business rates on March 31 last year. It’s due to pay £231,387 in rates in 2023-24 – just over £19,000 a month – but the report before council said this was far lower than the building’s original rateable value of £401,250. The report anticipated a similar saving in 2024-25.

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The council wants to attract high-quality tenants which add to the city’s retail offer. It is also mindful that the Quadrant Shopping Centre was put up for sale last October by its leaseholders, although it remains business as usual there.

Cllr Richard Lewis said he didn’t think the full council meeting was the right place to discuss business matters, that it was a complicated situation, and that retail was a “cut-throat” sector. “We have seen what’s happened to high streets up and down the country,” he said. Cllr Lewis said he also felt more parking spaces were needed in Swansea city centre.

Cllr Stewart said another multi-storey car park would be completed, as part of the Copr Bay development, and that additional car parking could be needed in the future – alongside other modes of transport – as he said car park occupancy rates had recovered following the Covid pandemic.

The Welsh Government gave the council £4.5 million to buy the Debenhams building and help with future refurbishing costs.