A LARGE vacant retail unit in Yeovil town centre will not be sold off by Somerset Council, despite the failure to find a new tenant since its closure.

South Somerset District Council acquired the Wilko branch at 88-92 Middle Street in November 2017 as part of its commercial investments programme, using the rent from its tenant to help fund front-line services.

The Yeovil branch was one of several in Somerset which closed in the summer of 2023 as Wilko entered administration, and the unit has remained vacant ever since.

Somerset Council has been seeking to sell off the commercial investments it inherited from the four district councils in order to balance its books.

But officers have revealed that the Wilko unit will remain in the council’s ownership since the building could be crucial to future regeneration efforts.

This comes as the council seeks to spend up to £1m on demolishing the nearby Glovers Walk shopping centre ahead of a possible redevelopment of the site.

The fate of the Wilko store was confirmed following a meeting of the council’s property and investments executive sub-committee, which met in Taunton on April 15 (though its decisions have only recently been public, due to commercial sensitivity).

Robert Orrett, the council’s head of commercial investment, said in his written report: “88-92 Middle Street is vacant and is seen as an important strategic parcel within any regeneration strategy for that part of Yeovil. As such, it is recommended to be retained by the council.

“This area of the town continues to be a focus for regeneration. The property adjoins other council-owned land as well as third party-owned property in need of new uses.

“Any future regeneration of this area of Yeovil would be negatively impacted by the disposal of this building.

“The commercial value of the building as a vacant asset is very low.”

Numerous improvements to the public realm in and around Middle Street – which forms part of the Yeovil Refresh programme – are expected to be completed by the end of August.

Councillor Ros Wyke, portfolio holder for economic development, told the full council in Bridgwater on April 23 that funding had been secured from Homes England to create a masterplan for further regenerating the centre – possibly built around the future use of the Glovers Walk site.

She said in her written report: “£5m of funding [from the government’s future high streets fund] will be reallocated to provide residential accommodation for young professionals, key workers and student apprentices, over retail at three key locations, plus the acquisition of a major town centre redevelopment site.

“Although the premises will initially be demolished to form a temporary ‘meanwhile’ use, it will then be redeveloped in accordance with master-planning work.

“This master-planning work started in March, funded by Homes England, and a scoping study report was produced which will, subject to more Homes England funding, be the basis for wider consultation with businesses, the community and stakeholders to produce a mixed-use redevelopment vision for Yeovil town centre.”