Sutton Council has announced they have bought the long leasehold on the St Nicholas Centre Shopping Centre.

The £26m purchase has been made as part of the council’s plans to regenerate the town centre to make it an attractive destination. 

Sutton Council already owns the freehold but said the move will help to ensure the town centre’s future by giving them greater control over the key landmark which covers 4.7 acres of land in the heart of Sutton.

The property also includes the recently refurbished Empire Cinema and 740-space car park.

MORE: More than 10 shops empty on Sutton High Street

It comes as the borough manages its recovery from Covid-19, which has seen many shops become dormant during the pandemic. 

New data has revealed at least 30 shopping centres in the UK are now half empty, including five with more than 80 per cent of their shops vacant, according to Local Data Company.

Your Local Guardian: Empty units in St Nicholas Empty units in St Nicholas

Sutton Guardian recently took a trip to St Nicholas Centre to see how the shopping centre looked following the restriction ease. 

Some of St Nicholas Centre's issues stem far beyond its control, such as the corporate collapses of key anchor tenants such as Debenhams. 

Big chains such as Sports Direct have also moved away from the centre and into Times Square on the high street. 

MORE: Sutton readers offer suggestions for improving high street

Your Local Guardian: Sports Direct Sports Direct

As you walk upstairs you will find the Party Superstores with its shutters down. Similar scenes stand at jewellery store Goldsmiths but they have printed a sign which states 'It's not goodbye but see you soon'. 

Other stores which have closed include Blue Inc, Bags 4 U, Anne Summers and much more. 

The centre has since seen an empty unit be taken over by homeless charity Sutton Night Watch as well as a community food store launched by Sutton Community Works during the pandemic. 

Your Local Guardian: Party Superstores Party Superstores

Councillor Ruth Dombey, Leader of Sutton Council, said: “The purchase of the St Nicholas Centre offers us an opportunity to ensure the future vitality of our High Street.

"As the long leaseholder, we will have much greater control and influence over a key asset in our borough and can ensure that any future development is in keeping with our vision for the town centre. 

“The way people are interacting with their local areas has changed as a result of the pandemic and we will ensure that we respond to the needs of local people and businesses in a post-pandemic world, as we deliver our town centre regeneration plans."

MORE: How shopping centres are 'evolving' to stay open in SW London

She added: “Delivering a vibrant high street that responds to today’s leisure, consumer and employment demands is more important than ever as we seek to rebuild Sutton’s communities and economy after the impact of the pandemic. 

“We will work with our local residents, businesses and voluntary and public sector partners to fully understand their needs and to ensure that we are safeguarding the centre of Sutton for future generations.”

Sutton Council said they would like everyone to have their say on what the centre will look like and will launch a consultation soon.