Muse confident of Talbot Gateway deal by end of 2008

Muse Developments will sign a formal agreement with Blackpool council before the end of the year to deliver the £285m Talbot Gateway mixed-use scheme.

Mike Horner, regional director of Muse, formerly known as Amec Developments before being acquired by Morgan Sindall last year, said: "We are working through the fine detail of the development agreement at the moment.

"We are progressing the masterplan for phase one and conducting land acquisitions. The development agreement will be signed in the coming months, certainly by the end of the year."

Horner said phase one would contain a foodstore, car parking and a council office of around 85,000 sq ft.

The developer was appointed by Blackpool council and urban regeneration company ReBlackpool in April 2007 to redevelop the area around Blackpool North railway station into a new transport interchange, public square, council offices, a courthouse, the supermarket, two hotels and a multi-screen cinema.

Early statements claimed work would start on site in 2008 with a completion date of 2015 but the agreement met with delays. The council has been criticised locally, with negative comments posted on the ReBlackpool website, for delaying the process through inexperience of handling large projects.

Horner said an outline application is now expected to be submitted in spring 2009.

New development managers, including Ian Hassall, former chief executive of Liverpool Land Development Company, have been brought in to ReBlackpool to speed up the process.

Horner declined to comment on the reasons for the delay. He also said the need for the council to use compulsory purchase orders could not be ruled out.

The council owns around two-thirds of the 35-acre site but there are ten other landowners, three of them key to the scheme. Horner said negotiations were at an early stage over land assembly.

The other major North West project where Muse is development partner is Network Rail's revamp of Victoria Station in central Manchester.

Horner said: "There is a lot of work currently ongoing with Network Rail, Northern Rail, GMPTE, the council, English Heritage and others to progress the plans."

Around 800,000 sq ft of offices, retail, hotel and residential are expected to be delivered on the site in partnership with Network Rail as well as the much-needed refurbishment of the station itself.

Hamiltons, GVA Grimley and Arup are retained on the planning work. A development agreement and planning application are not expected before spring 2009.

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