A SHOPPING centre in Yate is to go under the hammer in a property auction, the Gazette understands.

Yate Town Council has been informed that Abbotswood Shopping Centre will be put up for sale by its absentee owners this year.

The centre, which consists of retail units as well as flats above, garages to the rear and a large area of concrete open space, is believed to be owned by a couple from London who have historically refused to communicate with local people or maintain the buildings. Yate mayor Cllr Martin Monk told the Gazette many of the walls and roofs were dilapidated, there were loose paving stones throughout and the centre was generally untidy.

He said: "It is in a right state. Ideally I want to see the whole lot pulled down and we start again.

"There are moving slabs, piles of rubbish everywhere and leaking roofs. No-one cares about it and if a place looks bad it encourages people to behave badly."

In December 2010, the Gazette reported how South Gloucestershire Council had to carry out emergency repairs to collapsing walls in Abbotswood and in 2007 police issued the area’s first dispersal order to stop groups of youths gathering outside the rank of shops.

Cllr Monk said the town council had never been able to ascertain exactly who owned the shopping centre and in his 30 years in local government, he could not recall ever having known who owned Abbotswood.

But, he said, there were various freehold and leasehold agreements on the flats and shops.

"We don’t know exactly what is going to be up for auction," he said. "It could just be the open space. But it could be the freehold and the leasehold and I can’t see why it would be anything else."

In the past, local shops which include several takeaways, a hairdresser, the Abbotswood Inn public house and a McColls convenience store, have contributed to repairs and improvement work.

On Tuesday (January 15) councillors met with police and members of Abbotswood Action Group to discuss the future of the shopping centre. They agreed to write a letter to the unnamed owners informing the couple that unless they objected, local organisations and groups would assume responsibility for the maintenance and upkeep of the area.

Yate Town Council has said if it had funds available it would consider bidding at the auction.

Cllr John Ford said: "We would love to have it but I don’t think we will be able to afford to buy it."

The date of the auction has not been disclosed.