Retail agents in Manchester were split over the likelihood of Stockport council finding a development partner any time soon to replace Lend Lease after it abandoned the £500m redevelopment of the Bridgefield area of the town centre.
Lend Lease withdrew its support for the redevelopment which would have comprised 650,000 sq ft of shops, a cinema, 250 residential units and 80,000 sq ft of leisure citing deteriorating and unfavourable conditions.
The developer was selected in 2006 and had spent millions of pounds preparing for a planning application, expected in 2009.
Stephen Tregenza, partner at retail specialist Tushingham Moore, was cautiously positive that the scheme could be rescued quickly. He said: "It worked 12 months ago for Lend Lease but we all know what has happened since and I would be surprised if it could be made to work for anyone else now. That said, if the market picks up it could attract a developer to come back in just as soon as it took Lend Lease to go.
"Stockport is a big town and there was demand from occupiers for the scheme so I don't see why it shouldn't work again."
However, another retail agent at a Manchester agency, who asked not to be named, was more pessimistic in his interpretation. He said: "It could take until the top of the next economic cycle which may be five years away before Stockport gets the scheme back to the same point."
Richard Barker, associate director at DTZ, albeit declaring his interest as adviser to Mersey Way shopping centre owner, Buckingham Securities, a would-be rival to any newcomer into Stockport, said: "I think the council will really struggle to find someone else. All the anchors are already there in the town with the exception of some very top-end retailers such as John Lewis.
"The Lend Lease scheme was an expensive build, requiring a lot of costly land assembly and I just don't see the money being there for that sort of activity, in a town that performs well as it is, for a long time."
Meanwhile, Stockport council leader, Cllr Dave Goddard, said the council had started actively appraising future options for the Bridgefield site.
He added: "This is a prestige site which offers major opportunities to the right developer.
"This is obviously a setback but we are big enough to deal with it and we are determined to move forward positively. Stockport is a good place for developers to do business."