John Lewis negotiations were a “10 year saga” says Sheffield Council chief

Sheffield Council’s business chief has spoken about the decade long “saga” with John Lewis.

Saturday, 3rd April 2021, 7:00 am

Coun Mazher Iqbal, Cabinet member for business and investment, said the council believed the flagship store would remain in the city.

He told a meeting: “This is a saga that’s been going on for almost 10 years and this council has gone above and beyond to try and keep John Lewis in the city.”

Last year the council paid John Lewis £3m to buy them out of their old lease. Liberal Democrat councillor Martin Smith said: “It sounds pretty obvious that there was no clause in that £3m deal that made it conditional for them to stay.”

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The Sheffield John Lewis store

Coun Iqbal said buying the lease had “put the council in control”.

“It gave us the ability to offer John Lewis a new lease on modern terms with a contribution for refurbishment, in return for a rental payment based on turnover, to retain them in Sheffield.

“Money was only to be released to John Lewis as works to the building were undertaken and completed. No works have started to date therefore, there is nothing to claim back.

“If circumstances did change, any change to the lease would need our agreement. John Lewis may plan to close the store, but they are still tied to a lease with the council.

“If they want to bring that arrangement to an end there is a commercial arrangement to be agreed with a payment due from John Lewis to exit the current lease. There will be no financial loss to the council.

“They only told us last week that they are not reopening the store so now our solicitors and John Lewis’ solicitors will go into negotiations regarding the current lease.”

Green councillor Douglas Johnson asked if the money set aside to refurbish John Lewis could now be spent on independent retailers.

Coun Iqbal said not. “The Heart of the City has got a red line boundary and the financing deal and borrowing we’re doing is only for the Heart of the City, the council cannot spend that money outside that red line.”

READ MORE:

In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a digital subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Nancy Fielder, editor.