Today we launched our new film: Inspiring places with heart.

Here’s a word from the CEO…

“The purpose of our towns and cities was evolving before the pandemic and Milligan was responding to these changes. This year’s events however have been more of a revolution, certainly much more than anyone could have foreseen and we like others have been taking time to consider our response. There is now an urgent need for some fresh thinking and leadership in the repurposing of failing shopping centres and high streets. At Milligan, we see these massive challenges as remarkable opportunities and we are determined to play our part in transforming places so that they better meet the needs of people to live well and prosper.

So to that end, I am pleased to share with you our new video that gives an insight into our experience and ambition.”

John Milligan, CEO – September 2020

As part of the Gateway at PEAK development team, we’ve appointed Cundall, sustainability engineers, to work alongside our Head of Development. We speak to partner Alan Fogarty about why this is such a standout project.

“One of the Gateway’s sustainable goals will be to operate with complete transparency on a number of pre-defined, industry standard metrics, sharing these with stakeholders and visitors.  Any offsetting of energy will be minimised and if unavoidable will be done on site or locally.

“This is a fantastic opportunity to create an ultra-sustainable building at a time when the industry is crying out for practical examples of what Net Zero Carbon Buildings should look like, and we are very excited to be a part of it.

“Working with Milligan has already been a unique experience. We’ve been brought into the Gateway at PEAK project at a critical stage, helping to shape the ‘statement of needs’ and project aspirations. Normally, we respond to a brief, arriving once it’s been written, we don’t help write it! But by participating in the briefing process in this way, we are ensuring to properly factor in each element of sustainability, allowing for the time and resources needed, rather than just paying lip service to it retrospectively.

“The challenge when working on a purely commercial building is that the real focus is always flexibility, the focus of a school, for example is functionality. The Gateway will focus on delivering something that is genuinely sustainable at its heart – a building that truly performs. And genuine performance is not just about compliance and building regulations. The Gateway’s natural location in the Peak District means we can welcome all the biophilic opportunities and integrate them into the visitor experience.

“At this stage of the project we’re not only thinking about energy consumption and transportation, but embrace energy, water conservation and health and well-being too. We’re also considering how the building might need to adapt to climate change and perhaps warmer summers in the future and how it creates real social value for the community it serves and the people that work there.

“Crucially, performance is all about setting transparent targets that are visible to everyone who is connected with the Gateway at PEAK. This is something Cundall is very experienced in doing and where we can add a lot of value on a long-term basis.

“It’s also important to us that sustainability addresses the local need. Where it makes sense, we will be utilising local supply chains, buying into the local economy and helping local businesses. We’ll also be getting our contractors to think about apprenticeships for long term career opportunities for young people rather than just work-experience.

“This project will be one of the first Net Zero Carbon Buildings in the UK, as defined by the UK Green Building Council, and its green credentials will include low-emission building materials and sustainable design principles in order to maximise carbon reduction. It will also promote health and well-being activities like walking, cycling and alternative modes of transport that will have a positive impact on local air quality and make it a shining example of sustainable development.”

To learn more about the project please visit or contact

We recently announced that we would be partnering with the University of Derby, amongst other strategic partners, on our Gateway project in the Peak District. We talk to Brendan Moffett, where he explains more about how the project will deliver a wide range of research, innovation and applied learning opportunities.

“As the Hospitality and Tourism sectors go through a period of post Covid-19 reinvention, there will be a need to embrace new business models with sustainability and technological innovation embedded. The University is positioning itself to be future focussed and at the forefront of innovation and problem solving to help the sector to recover and build resilience for the future.

“The University of Derby already has a strong reputation in the delivery of hospitality and tourism education and from this September our new intake of students will be housed within the business school to enable us to support the industry and develop the next generation of leaders.

“Partnering with Milligan and Birchall Properties on the Gateway at PEAK presents a once in a generation opportunity to create an exemplar of sustainable tourism at a time when consumers and visitors are becoming more aware of the impact of their actions.

“We’ve seen an upsurge in staycations and domestic tourism from a wide demographic and we need to develop best practice models for how this will be managed to protect the natural environment. The University is keen to support a Sustainable Tourism Development approach where the Peak District and Derbyshire can retain the economic and social advantages of tourism whilst reducing or mitigating any negative impacts on the natural, cultural or social environment.

“We believe this project is at the heart of national policy on Tourism. In 2019 the Government announced a Tourism Sector Deal with the aspiration to improve connectivity, accommodation and grow off-peak visits through the creation of ‘tourism action zones,’ so we believe this project is the perfect test bed for such a strategy.

“For our students, this will be a live project, adding value to their courses and the project itself will have access to the latest thinking and research via the University’s research specialisms in ‘business improvement’ and ‘sustainable development’.

“Research will help us to understand the seismic shifts we are seeing in consumer values, behaviours, and expectations when it comes to sustainability and responsible tourism. Great service, unique experiences and personalisation are now core to these expectations, but add to that the new challenges for increased hygiene and safety, and it is clear we need to operate very differently and evolve current operating models.

“Tomorrow’s visitor will increasingly make decisions about where and how they travel and what they buy and consume based on the environmental and community impact, leading to a preference for locally sourced products and authentic experiences. The Gateway at PEAK project is a hugely exciting opportunity to completely re-imagine what such an offer should look like and will be at the heart of a world class visitor economy for the region.”

Last month we announced a joint venture with Birchall Properties and a partnership with the Peak District National Park Authority, The University of Derby and Chesterfield Borough Council, to create a national park gateway to the Peak District.

Milligan is now actively engaged in discussions with a variety of brands and businesses, conducting research to ascertain appetite and willingness to participate, stakeholder and customer mapping and assessing sustainability matters as we begin to shape what the Gateway at PEAK will be.

Melanie Taylor, Head of Retail and Relations, explains where we are at.

What is the vision for the Gateway at PEAK?

We want to create a ‘green hub’ for like-minded brands, service providers, experiences and learning, amenities and the base camp for exploration of the UK’s first national park. Our vision is for the Gateway to become a world-class exemplar of a sustainable tourism project. We see the Gateway as providing the perfect opportunity for learning about nature and climate change as well as enjoying the National Park. We also respect and acknowledge the local contribution so throughout the project will treat the residents of the park as partners, valuing the importance of community.

What’s the next development milestone?

The next big milestone is developing the statement of needs for the building itself, how it will operate and perform, at which point we’ll be in a position to brief a wider team, including contractors and architects.

Who are you looking to talk to during this exploratory phase?

As you can imagine, a project like this, with such local significance and national status has many stakeholders and is attracting interest from all disciplines – from local to national brands to environmental campaigning groups. We need to consult as many as possible along the way, but to get things up and running we clearly need to drive the commercial agenda, so we’re talking to operators in the F&B sector, outdoor clothing and apparel brands, motor and electric vehicles, hotels and local retail and artisan products. We’re also exploring the landscape for commercial partnerships with technology companies, telecom, energy and those with ambitious goals for sustainability.

What has the interest been like so far?

I’ve been amazed at how many brands and companies buy into and understand the vision and are looking at the opportunity to do something really unique. This is not about a retail mall or even shop fronts, it’s about an immersive experience for the customer, punctuated by likeminded brands adding value to the customer journey and enhancing their trip into this most beloved national park. Everyone I have spoken to so far is thinking that way. We’re doing this at a time when (pandemics aside) the importance of our environment is not only growing, but critical to our future. A sustainable project, designed to protect a significant area of the UK’s environment in mind, is a project everyone can get on board with!

Will there be anything unique or ground-breaking about the Gateway at PEAK?

We shall see. But the vision is that this will be one of the first examples of a Net Carbon Zero building in the UK. I’m excited about what this project means for sustainability, customer experience and the future of retail.

To find out more about the Gateway at PEAK or to get involved, visit or contact

Last week we announced our latest development, the Gateway at Peak. The Gateway at Peak will be the country’s first national park gateway, to its first national park, The Peak District. Working with a number of regional stakeholders and Birchall Properties, it is set to become an exemplar for sustainable tourism in the UK. Read more on the story here. We are currently engaged in a marketing and research phase, talking to local and national brands, exploring partnership and commercial opportunities.

If you would like to find out more, please visit or contact Melanie Taylor.

After The Estates Gazette broke the announcement, the story was covered by a number of other titles. Here’s a round up of the trade, national and local coverage the story received.



Estates Gazette:

Property Week:

Insider Media:

Business Live:



Peak FM:


Destination Chesterfield:

Joint venture formed to develop the Gateway at PEAK Resort

East Midlands Business Link:

JV formed to develop the Gateway at 300-acre PEAK Resort

Derby Telegraph:

Derbyshire Times:



The Sun:

Milligan has today announced it is forming a joint venture to develop the UK’s first fully serviced national park gateway as part of the 300-acre PEAK Resort development, consented on the eastern boundary of the Peak District National Park.

The Peak District is the UK’s original national park, covering 555 square miles and attracting over 13 million tourism visits each year. More than 25 million people live within 50 miles of its boundaries and currently 61% of visits are from the ‘east side’ of the park.

With the changes in attitude and movement brought about by the impact of Coronavirus and the increasing cost and environmental impact of international travel, demand for national parks is predicted to rise exponentially over the coming years. Whilst new visitors are encouraged to enjoy the countryside and learn about its heritage, their impact must be balanced with more sustainable ways to visit. As 85% of visitors currently arrive by car, a gateway facility providing accommodation, parking and services for onward travel into the park by foot, bike or in public electric vehicles through park-and-ride, will help mitigate their environmental impact and help to reduce traffic congestion.


Cundall, sustainability partner for the project, sees this as a unique opportunity to create an ultra-sustainable building at a time when the industry is crying out for practical examples of what Net Zero Carbon Buildings should look like. One of the Gateway at PEAK’s sustainable goals will be to operate with complete transparency on a number of pre-defined, industry standard metrics, sharing these with stakeholders and visitors as well as offsetting energy on a long-term basis, once the Gateway is complete and fully operating.

The Peak District National Park Authority and Chesterfield Borough Council have recognised both the challenges and the opportunities generated by sustainable tourism and have partnered with PEAK Resort landowner Birchall Properties and Milligan to explore and refine the development. The University of Derby, one of the UK’s leading hospitality and tourism institutions will also be a central part of the team, bringing leading thinkers and applied learning students.

Melanie Taylor, head of retail and relations at Milligan, said; “Our vision is to create a sustainable hub for like-minded businesses and a basecamp for the exploration of the Peak District. This will be a world-class example of a sustainable tourism project.

“A gateway could provide information for visitors to book single or multi-day itineraries, explore the area using more sustainable, less polluting modes of transport and buy or hire outdoor activity equipment to try out new activities. The information available about the wider Park’s attractions will help spread the economic benefit of millions of visitors beyond the area’s traditional ‘honey spots’.”

Image credit: Birchall Properties


Sarah Fowler, chief executive of the Peak District National Park added; “As we approach our 70th year as the UK’s first national park, supporting sustainable gateways and opportunities for visitors to experience what we have to offer in a responsible way is vital to our future. It also resonates with our aim for everyone to be ‘PeakDistrictProud’ in their approach to spending time with us. The Covid-19 pandemic has brought into sharp focus the role that national parks and our outdoor spaces can play in our recovery and long-term wellbeing. It feels both timely and exciting to be working collaboratively with Milligan and Birchall Properties to create the first Peak District National Park gateway as part of the PEAK Resort. The Peak District’s unique position in the heart of the country already makes us accessible to millions and our involvement in the Gateway at PEAK will help unlock our wildlife, cultural heritage and natural beauty to others, befitting a pioneering approach to sustainable tourism.”

Over the next two months, the partnership led by Milligan will be undertaking a major marketing and research phase discussing the opportunity with companies both large and small, local and national that might be interested in participating. They will be looking to create partnerships with brands that align with the Gateway’s values and vision, to integrate products, experiences and expertise into the delivery of a world-class visitor experience.

Once this phase is completed in September, a detailed building specification will be finalised, and it is intended that construction will start in 2021.

To find out more about how your brand or business can get involved in the Gateway at PEAK, contact Melanie Taylor.

PEAK Resort has planning permission for up to 2,000 hotel rooms and 250 lodges as well as a whole range of leisure, education and entertainment facilities. Phase One of construction, the all-weather, all-year, all-ages Adrenalin World (working title) is already underway and will open in Spring 2021.

Ashford Borough Council has appointed Milligan as developer to deliver the ambitious Vicarage Lane town centre redevelopment project. The new team also includes MICA (architect) and AECOM (project manager).

The scheme, which includes the former Mecca bingo hall in the Lower High Street, is a proposed mixed use development, aiming to deliver quality homes, cultural and performance space, food and drink outlets and workspace to complement the market town’s history and heritage.

The council’s proposals include the part demolition of the rear of the former bingo hall to reveal an uninterrupted view to the iconic Grade I listed St Mary’s Church, while retaining the high street frontage of the building to create a multi-use indoor event space.

Explaining why they had chosen to bring in Milligan, Cllr Paul Clokie, Ashford Borough Council’s portfolio holder for corporate property, said it had been looking for “a stand-out performer who was passionate about using the Vicarage Lane scheme as a catalyst for town centre regeneration”.

He added: “We believe this scheme will help rejuvenate Ashford, enhance our cultural offer, create significant employment opportunities and help attract inward investment for the benefit of local communities.

“High Streets were facing challenging times even before the Coronavirus pandemic sent our town centres into lockdown.

“As we emerge from lockdown there is an even more compelling need for our High Streets to reinvent themselves and what they offer. The council is committed to revitalising Ashford’s town centre and I’m confident that this specialist team will help us take this exciting scheme forward.”

Developer Milligan has a rich pedigree of developing mixed-use projects with inspiring retail and leisure at their heart. It has developed, asset-managed or partnered on properties valued at more than £5bn and has developed over 3m sq ft in London, Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham, Barcelona, and Bilbao as well as operating the retail and leisure at Camden Lock Market. The Milligan approach is to drive value to all stakeholders by creating places where communities and businesses can thrive.

Stuart Harris, Chief Operating Officer at Milligan, said: “This is an exciting regeneration project and we are delighted to be working with Ashford Borough Council, which is a forward-looking and proactive local authority. We look to develop places where people are inspired to live, work, and play and that provide lasting value for their communities. We have a long-standing relationship with Ashford as some of our team were involved in the development and leasing of the Designer Outlet 20 years ago. Through more recent work we’ve developed good regional knowledge of independent and emerging start-up artisanal companies, who we would love to see come to Ashford alongside some of the great independents already trading in the town.”

To read more about this exciting town centre regeneration, please visit our project page.

Paul Hanegraaf, Milligan’s Creative Navigator and Malcolm Lea, Head of Development discuss how the industry is evolving and how the ‘talk’ needs to shift.

Reporting, stories and speculation on the new normal have been overwhelming. What is your take on what’s going to happen next?

M: It is all becoming a bit tiresome and we need to start seeing less predictions and more ideas. It is blindingly obvious that no shopping = no income = no rent = no new developments for the ‘traditional’ retail/leisure thinking. The real news would be if developers were not pausing new schemes for a rethink, but implementing new ways to deliver the same experience, with safety in mind.

P: True, but there are some key themes behind all the stories, which are what we need to take note of. Mothballed developments essentially point to risk. The next couple of years will be challenged with how to manage and balance risk… risk as consumers, risks as retailers, risks as restaurateurs, risks as developers and risks for money. It might suggest that reducing risk on as many fronts as possible can migrate us closer to success.

Many have talked about Covid as a catalyst or accelerator for trends that were already playing out. Is the industry agile enough to do something different now?

P: Who knows where this goes in next three years, but today we also have to work with our responsibilities towards sustainability, at the fore. The reuse of existing buildings is amongst the most sustainable practice our industry could entertain. This will also give us the ability/agility to listen, question, discover and then deliver at a pace with the times.

Business friction is another aspect to watch closely. The old business models come up against barrier after barrier. When that happens, it is often a space for the very fast paced transformation of new ideas, new formats and new solutions – the outliers become central.

M: The impacts we see playing out as a result of Covid, are trends we discussed back in 2015. Everything changes and moves on for a reason which will affect people’s behaviour. Terrorism changed airport security and was initially seen as a pain by most, but people still want to travel, for the enrichment and experience of it, so we got on with it. Similarly, people will still want to go out, meet people, have a drink and a meal in a nice place (and not just in a glass box for two) and go shopping. As we keep saying – it is all about the experience and how people choose to spend their time.

So where are we going to end up?

M: We will of course be more health aware and this will affect premises and people but some of these measures are long overdue. Remember how many pastries were displayed on counters without sneeze screens before Covid? And it will come back to the experience that people want and finding a safe way to create that for them. People will accept restrictions of all sorts for health reasons, but they will not accept a lower value experience.

P: There will be new retail solutions, there will be new operating strategies and there will be management challenges. There will be a convergence of values and the necessity for new collaborative operating entities… a big shift for those just used to collecting rent.

Visit our teams page to read more about Paul and Malcolm or to get in touch with them.

Milligan’s COO, Stuart Harris joined the Built Environment Network for a live webinar a few weeks ago to discuss mixed-use developments, some of the expected impacts of Covid-19 on their future development and the Milligan approach.

Having worked on and delivered a number of leisure regeneration projects across the UK, Stuart explained that moving through the next crucial and challenging chapter of real-estate development was going to require “experience, collaboration and innovation”.

Stuart quoted the model coined by John Elkington, nearly 25 years ago which balances the needs of the People, the Planet and profitability. Stuart said: “We need to assess the full impact our organisations and developments have on both the people we work with, and the local community in which we are working. Equally, the impact on the planet has to be at the forefront of our plans. Building responsibly and sustainably does not have to be at the expense of profit.

“Finally, profit should be defined by the positive and negative impact we have on the local economy in which we are developing. This includes creating employment, generating innovation, wealth creation and any other economic impact we might have.”

Stuart went on to explain that the Milligan approach centres around assessing the sustainable growth potential, from politics to the financial health of the local authority in order to understand what current and future demand and values could look like across a range of sectors.

Successful mixed-use development is about realising how the underlying site is attractive for a range of uses. There is no longer a cookie-cutter solution and the clone mall or town centre is a thing of the past.

Stuart continued: “It will be some time before we know the full effects of Covid-19, but the current crisis will accelerate the failure of some retail. Leisure and hospitality will be the last to recover, but the desire to go out, socialise and find experiences will continue to grow.”

“Research and understanding of the market of any area has never been more important and ultimately we need a shared vision of success which will marry innovative funding with long-term income streams to create sustainable investment platforms.”

Stuart was joined on the panel by James Burchell of Tellon Capital and the panel was hosted by Phil and Alison from BEN.

Click here to get in touch with Stuart.

Spain has tracked about two weeks ahead of the UK when it comes to the Coronavirus and its impact on retail and real estate is no exception. Back in April we reported on the early impact of the widescale closures, which acted as an insightful pre-cursor for what was to come in the UK. Today, it is promising to see how retail and shopping centres in Spain are faring during their phased reopening.

Zubiarte in Bilbao, which is owned in a join venture with Activum and asset managed by Milligan Spain, opened nearly two weeks ago. Despite strict hygiene measures and social distancing protocols, 83% of stores have been open and footfall has been surprisingly encouraging – at around 70%, compared with year on year figures. The centre is managing the new hygiene and capacity controls well and consumer confidence is optimistic. Footfall was up 20% week on week after its initial opening.

Xavi Alemany, Director of Asset Management Milligan Spain said; “Browsing and dwell time has understandably reduced so those who are visiting are here to buy which is resulting in a high purchase conversion rate. Prioritising safety and hygiene, but also complementing and carefully considering the customer’s purchase needs and in-store journey are going to be key in supporting all customers, retailers and operators through this never-before-seen transition.”

Customer video showing safety and social distancing measures in place at Zubiarte.


Elsewhere in Spain, 71% of shopping centres have reopened their doors, adhering to social distancing which limits occupancy to 40% in-store and 30% when moving through common areas. Madrid and Barcelona remain under lockdown, however shopping centres are expected to open there next week. Across the country, cinemas remain closed, however if trial runs over the next couple of weeks prove successful, they are expected to reopen at the beginning of July. Some restaurants are open or planning to open soon, depending on what phase the area is in and those with outdoor spaces and terraces are trading well.

Zubiarte in Bilbao is owned through a join venture with Activum and asset managed by Milligan Spain. Read more here.