An opposition councillor has attacked as “lamentable” Herefordshire Council’s running of the Maylord Orchards shopping centre.

The council bought the Hereford retail centre for the county in June 2020 as the effects of Covid began to bite.

Day-to-day running of Maylord, part of which is due to become a library and learning centre, was then passed to the council’s services company Hoople.

Conservative councillor Nigel Shaw asked at last Thursday’s cabinet meeting how much money the council was still owed in rent and service charges by its current and previous tenants.

Cabinet member for procurement and assets Coun Gemma Davies replied that while the council had been limited in its ability to enforce payment during the pandemic, “we now have the power to enforce these arrears, and have been successful in reaching settlement with most tenants”.


The remaining debt “mainly falls to only three tenants and we are focussing our efforts on these”, she added.

Total debt owed to the council currently amounts to £289,000, most of which – £197,000 – is down as “Covid/historic debt”.

Coun Shaw then asked: “With such a lamentable level of increasing debt, now more than double that in 2020, would the cabinet member not agree that the council is ill-suited as an operator of a shopping centre, and that any new administration would be advised to get it onto the market as one of its earliest priorities next year?”

To which Coun Davies responded: “The debt is not increasing and it’s unfair to insinuate that it is.” Rather, Hoople has succeeded in reducing it, including historic debt from the Covid era, by over half a million pounds, she said.

“Managing the asset via Hoople has been successful, and we have brought life back into this part of town.”

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