LONG-DELAYED plans to regenerate Portsmouth’s Northern Quarter could be put back by more than 12 months.
But as more details of the proposals put forward by developer Centros were released, the city council’s director of planning Kathy Wadsworth insisted the multi-million pound project would be completed on schedule.
The £500m shopping, housing and business scheme was shelved in 2008 as the recession began to bite, but a new timeline was agreed in 2010 with work set to begin before the end of 2015.
Now Portsmouth City Council has agreed to a request from Centros to allow an extra 12 to 21 months if necessary, potentially delaying the start of building work until 2017.
The council said this is because the current programme does not contain any ‘slack’ to allow for delays outside the control of the developer.
Mrs Wadsworth said: ‘Our target was to open in September 2018 and I fully expect that to be met.
‘We are meeting Centros twice a month and can see how much work they are doing. This is now their number one scheme.’
But leader of the council’s Conservative opposition, Simon Bosher, said the whole process was taking far too long.
‘This has been dragging along since I became a councillor,’ he said. ‘The way things look my children will be lucky to use these shops.
‘It is extremely frustrating and disappointing that we are just letting Centros dictate whatever terms they like.’
Council leader, Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, said he hoped the deadline extension wouldn’t be necessary.
He said: ‘They are asking the council to put a lot of money into redoing the road network so they really need to get their fingers out.
‘The Christmas retail results were worrying and the truth is it isn’t a good time to be building shopping centres.’
Cllr Vernon-Jackson added that of the two schemes Centros had been working on, the developer had opted for the smaller of the two.
He said: ‘The issue is one of quality. If we get a smaller scheme with a really good anchor then that is exactly what Commercial Road needs.’
The proposals put forward by developer Centros for the Northern Quarter contain:
· 47 shops
· Five medium sized units
· One huge anchor store, believed to be either a Marks & Spencers or John Lewis
· 44,000sq m retail floor space
· 5,000 sq m leisure floor space
· More than 1,000 homes
Rejected was a larger plan that included two huge anchor stores, more floor space and more shops, but the same number of homes.