Sheffield Council is today searching for a new developer for the flagship £400 million Sevenstone scheme after parting company with property firm Hammerson.
In negotiations, the property company said it could not commit to a start date for construction of the project to create new shops between The Moor and Barker’s Pool, including a flagship new John Lewis.
The council said it decided to end its agreement with Hammerson in order to find a new developer which could start work as soon as possible.
Hammerson continued to stall on the scheme despite the Government allowing up to £30 million to be borrowed against future business rates, and the firm pressing ahead with projects elsewhere, such as in Leeds.
Coun Leigh Bramall, Sheffield Council cabinet member for business, skills and development, said: “We have been working extremely hard with Hammerson and John Lewis to redesign, market test and establish the viability of a new retail quarter scheme.
“Our view is the city can’t wait any longer.
“We have confirmed a scheme which is viable so we will now be seeking a new development partner to move the project forward in the shortest time possible.”
Simon Green, Sheffield Council’s executive director, said the council would be willing to work with one developer or a consortium.
Sheffield Council’s chief executive, John Mothersole, said the Government funding offer was available for 25 years so is secure.
He added: “This is a decisive moment to move forward. We have a high degree of confidence in the scheme.”
The council estimates it could take ‘12 to 18 months’ to develop a new scheme with a different company.
Coun Bramall said: “We have the finance available, the land is secured under a compulsory purchase order, utilities have been moved in readiness, and the old fire station on Wellington Street has been demolished to make way for a new John Lewis.
“We are confident a new developer will take the project on.”
The Star understands Hammerson, which still owns some of the Sevenstone site and has invested millions of pounds in the scheme, is parting company with the council amicably and will hand back the land.
The council said it has not invested any money so far in the scheme - so not lost anything.
Peter Cole, Hammerson’s chief investment officer, said: “We believe the city can build on our work to date and take forward the opportunity.”
Sevenstone has been on hold since 2009 and the current proposals, for 700,000 sq ft of retail space, are a scaled-down version of the original plans, which were to cost £600 million.
The council said the scheme is important to attract not only shoppers but also ‘blue chip’ employers to the city centre.
Jeremy Collins, property director for John Lewis, said: “We are naturally disappointed but will continue to work tirelessly to provide the best possible shopping experience for our customers.”