Rochdale council lands latest jab in legal fight with Sultan

Rochdale council has issued a fresh statement elaborating on its rebuttal of developer Sultan's legal plea to replay a town centre development contest won by rival Wilson Bowden.

Last week, Sultan started legal proceedings to rerun the competition, claiming part of its plans were excluded from the council's discussions over the £250m project.

Andy Zuntz, executive director of Rochdale Borough Council, said today: "We understand that Sultan are expressing concerns that certain aspects of their proposals were not taken into account.

"Whilst Sultan/Ask did try and make a late submission and variation to their proposal, EU procurement law meant we could not accept this as the selection process had to be completely fair and balanced."

The contested detail relates to Sultan's plans to retain, refurbish and extend the Marks & Spencer store in its current location rather than relocate it elsewhere.

Zuntz added: "It was a unanimous all-party decision to select Wilson Bowden as the nominated development partner and the views of local people were taken into account as part of the selection process.

"Opinions from the local community informed the initial brief that the council issued to all interested developers. The results of the second public consultation last December on the three short-listed schemes were reported to the Town Centre Committee, thereby forming part of the decision-making process."

Sultan's existing interests in Rochdale include the Wheatsheaf shopping centre in the town centre, which could be harmed if retail focus shifts to rival schemes. The legal challenge is being made solely by Sultan and not by the joint venture or its partner Ask Developments.

A spokesman for Sultan said: "We contest the council's view on the basis that our initial submission made reference to the proposals for Marks & Spencer.

"The later submission was a matter of clarification which is acceptable under EU procurement law."

A 'standstill period' has been agreed until 30 April, during which the council is unable to enter into any contract for the town centre's redevelopment under the tender scheme.

Sultan is advised by law firm Addleshaw Goddard.

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