A developer has warned time is running out to get a £100 million regeneration of a gateway to Peterborough off the ground.
The alarm has been sounded by Peter Breach, chairman of Hawksworth Securities, who two years ago secured planning permission for a £100 million cinema-led development of the eight acre North Westgate area.
The plans included a four star hotel, a new market plus a range of quality shops and restaurants, apartments and homes.
But since then little appears to have happened and Mr Breach says support from Peterborough City Council is imperative if it is to succeed.
He warns it is vital development work starts on site before businesses lose interest in moving into the area and a golden opportunity to create a development of note is lost.
However, his concerns have been dismissed by council leader Councillor John Holdich who says the local authority is working hard behind the scenes to regenerate North Westgate.
Mr Breach’s call comes in a letter to the Peterborough Telegraph.
In it he states: “The world of property moves on and the Hawksworth leisure based proposal will not be deliverable forever.
“Council support for North Westgate is required or Peterborough will end up with bland blocks of flats and/or offices at this city gateway.
“What a poor outcome this would be for a proud city!”
Although the council granted outline approval to the North Westgate scheme, planners at the same meeting it also gave full planning approval for a £30 million cinema-led revamp of the neighbouring Queensgate shopping centre.
Mr Breach says the council’s approval for Queensgate’s plans effectively sounded the death knell for his North Westgate proposal as two cinemas in such close proximity would not be viable.
And Queensgate can clearly win the race to open a cinema as it has an operator lined up and could start building immediately, while much of the North Westgate site still has to be acquired and a full planning application submitted.
Mr Breach said: “The council has supported Queensgate for a cinema location but the major multiplex operators are not interested and Odeon has withdrawn.
“Shopping centres are notoriously unsuccessful places for cinema operators.
“What better location for a cinema complex than North Westgate one may ask, and why not?
He states: “The council have allowed the various owners of Queensgate fifteen years (since granting them preferred developer status in 2003) to deliver a scheme.
“It is time to call a halt to this delay which is costing about £1.6 million each year in lost rates.
“The council now say they want a strong leisure component in North Westgate but the commercial reality is that this is not capable of delivery without a multiplex cinema.”
Mr Breach told the Peterborough Telegraph: “I am still working on North Westgate.
“I have been in negotiation with the owners of some of the properties in North Westgate.
“And I am quite happy to work with the council to get this scheme up and running.”
But, Coun Holdich said he did not agree that North Westgate could only be developed if it contained a cinema and did not accept time was running out.
He said the council was determined to push on with the development of North Westgate and had already made progress.
He said: “I don’t accept that time is running out. There is no shortage of interest in the site. We have been discussing this site for 20 years and another year or so will not make any difference.
He added: “North Westgate is going ahead.
“The council has been very supportive of Mr Breach - we’ve had numerous meetings with him and we have offered him a joint partnership and offered to buy any of the site he may own.
“But at some time we have to say that enough is enough and we have to get it developed.
“There are no signs of Mr Breach getting on with it himself. He has the planning permission, he just needs to get on with it.”
Cllr Holdich said the council had already assigned a planning officer to come up with a design for the site.
He said: “We are looking at all the options.
“I think Queensgate will go ahead with its cinema plans, but North Westgate does not need a cinema to make it work. There are other options.
“It is a very important piece of land - close to the bus and train stations. It is a focal point for Peterborough and we want it to look very good.”
The council has already sketched out ideas for tackling the site’s development.
Cllr Holdich said: “We are looking at some form of partnership with development experts to get this built.
“We are likely to develop the site in zones.
“For instance, obtaining planning permission for a certain area and then developing it before moving on to the next zone.”
Simon Machen, the council’s corporate director, growth and regeneration, said: “North Westgate is an important part of our vision for a vibrant city centre and that’s why it is essential we take forward its redevelopment.
“That said, North Westgate will be a complex site to deliver, with many different landowners involved.
“It is this which has hindered its development in recent years and why we have committed to investing £15 million of capital funding over the next three years to buy land and property so that we can take a lead role in its redevelopment. We’re in the process of acquiring land, working with land owners, and have purchased our first property.”
“The development of this site will not be a quick process because of the land ownership, however we remain committed to the comprehensive redevelopment of North Westgate and working with all landowners to regenerate the site.”