The national developer will re-enter negotiations after an enforced two-year hiatus due to legal challenges from Tesco at its £150m Liverpool regeneration scheme in significantly different funding circumstances.
Michelle Taylor, regional director of St Modwen, said the process of getting vacant possession of the site would involve settling with 150 interested owners and occupiers across the 45 acres around Great Homer Street in North Liverpool.
Taylor said ordinarily the developer would have bought in land as negotiations concluded in advance of a public inquiry into the Compulsory Purchase Orders by Liverpool City Council.
However, the current climate has removed that option and the process will be more "frustrating" as a result. She said: "Where we find ourselves now is that due to the lack of debt finance for development and the terms that banks at imposing – insisting on CPOs being in place before agreeing deals with landowners – we will not be able to do deals until after the CPO is agreed."
St Modwen hopes to form the basis of agreements in principle even if cash is not handed over until after the inquiry.
St Modwen was appointed as preferred developer by Liverpool City Council in 2005 and outline consent was granted in 2007 for a 115,000 sq ft foodstore, market, 480 homes and community facilities including library and health centre. St Modwen had originally been in discussions with Tesco about anchoring the scheme but talks fell through. Tesco was replaced by Sainsbury's. Tesco lodged its own application for the site in 2008. Tesco this week ruled out appealing against a High Court judge's decision to throw out its application and subsequent challenges to St Modwen and Liverpool City Council's plans.
Taylor said it could take a year for the CPOs to be served, the expected inquiry to be held and a decision handed down by the Secretary of State. She declined to put a budget on the land assembly but said the cost of the legal advice needed to get through the CPO process would run to hundreds of thousands and be met by St Modwen rather than the council. Law firm Cobbetts has been appointed to advise St Modwen.