Grosvenor's decision to pull out of the £700m Tithebarn retail scheme in Preston, leaving Lend Lease to go it alone, was predictable but no less unfortunate, according to local agent Robert Pinkus.
The proposed scheme includes 1.5m sq ft of shopping incorporating two department stores plus 100 shops. If built, there will be a range of bars and restaurants, a nine-screen cinema, new and refurbished markets, 500 homes and 2,700 car parking spaces.
Grosvenor announced its decision to withdraw from the scheme, which faces a public inquiry, on Friday. The developer said it intends to concentrate on its larger portfolio of medium-sized, residential, mixed-used and retail projects instead of the few larger city centre regeneration schemes it has in its portfolio.
Robert Pinkus, of Preston-based surveyor Robert Pinkus & Co, said: "It is no surprise that Grosvenor have finally pulled out of the project although it had always appeared overly ambitious to ourselves and many other property professionals.
"It is a pity that it has taken so long to reach this unfortunate situation since for many years, a large area of the centre of Preston has been effectively blighted.
"My firm acts for a number of clients whose businesses have suffered through the uncertainty. What I would now expect to happen is that commercially viable elements of the originally designated Tithebarn area will now be worked up, either by Lend Lease or other developers, on a piecemeal basis."
In an official statement, John Irvine, executive director for development at Grosvenor said: "We were determined to see the Tithebarn scheme through to planning consent, which was approved recently, and we wish Lend Lease and Preston City Council every success with the project."
Richard Coppell of Lend Lease added: "We wish to continue working with Preston City Council and believe in the potential of both Preston and the Tithebarn scheme. Our next step will be to respond to the recent Government call in."
In a joint statement, the council's group leaders Cllr Ken Hudson, leader of the council (Conservative), Cllr John Collins (Labour) and Cllr Danny Gallagher (Liberal Democrat) said: "Although we are naturally disappointed with Grosvenor's decision we understand their reasons. We are pleased that Lend Lease are still on board and are looking forward to working with them to bring Tithebarn to fruition. Our first task is to deal with the challenges of the call in procedure."