The owners of Watford's shopping centre says it is "pleased" to announce it has agreed a new long-term financial plan.

SGS, which owns four shopping centres in the UK, including Atria Watford, says terms have been agreed in relation to long-term financial restructuring of its centres, including new funding to support future investment.

SGS say the agreement reached will help ensure "long term financial stability and improved operational performance", which has been described as a "defining moment".

Last summer, the future of Watford's shopping centre was uncertain after its previous owners - intu Properties - fell into administration.

The transfer of the centre management from intu to Global Mutual and Savills was completed at the end of last year, with the centre rebranded to Atria Watford in March 2021.

The shopping centre, pictured when it was still branded as intu Watford

The shopping centre, pictured when it was still branded as 'intu Watford'

Steve Gray, head of European Retail Asset Management at Global Mutual, said: "The agreement of a long-term financial restructuring and new funding with our lenders is a defining moment for our four shopping centres [Watford, Lakeside, Victoria Centre - Nottingham, and Braehead]. Thanks to funding certainty and a stable capital structure we can now focus on delivering our three-year business plan and exit strategy with renewed confidence.

"I am also very pleased to report a strong operational performance across our centres despite the sustained headwinds caused by Covid-19, with further improvements expected as restrictions ease further over the coming weeks.

"Despite transitioning to new ownership and management in the midst of a global pandemic - that has posed undoubtedly the greatest challenge to our sector in recent memory - I am proud to say we have delivered on what we set out to do only a few short months ago."

SGS says footfall at Atria Watford this year has been 75 per cent that of levels in 2019.

Although Watford suffered the loss of Debenhams and John Lewis over the last couple of years, shopping centre bosses have been buoyed by the opening of the Next Home and Beauty store (formerly Debenhams) and noted the lease renewals of Primark, Apple, and River Island, to name a few.

An escape room leisure destination, Escape Hunt, also recently opened at the shopping centre.

Escape Hunt on the ground floor of the intu extension

Escape Hunt on the ground floor of the intu extension

SGS says occupancy rates across its four centres stands at 88 per cent, and says rent collection has improved.

Rent collection rates increased across its four centres from 36 per cent in the third quarter of 2020 to 58 per cent in the first quarter of this year.

Service charge collection rates have also increased from 44 per cent in quarter 3 of 2020 to 67 per cent in quarter 1 of 2021.