The saga of Sheffield’s new city centre retail quarter took a fresh twist this week as it emerged that property firm Hammerson could still work on part of the development - despite parting ways with the council over the complete scheme.
The company still owns part of the former Sevenstone development site, mainly buildings fronting on to Pinstone Street.
Agreements between Hammerson and Sheffield Council mean the land can only be sold back to the council and not to a third party, but Hammerson may be allowed to retain the properties and develop them itself.
The company has already paid millions of pounds towards compulsory purchase orders for the rest of the former Sevenstone site.
A source close to the council said: “The council owns all of the land bought under compulsory purchase orders but Hammerson bought some of the buildings itself and could retain ownership of them.
“It is a delicate situation and negotiations are ongoing.
“The council needs to find a way around the situation but it will be at no cost to the council tax payer - and we will not be held to ransom by Hammerson.”
Last month, Sheffield Council said it would be parting company with Hammerson after the company would not commit to a date for starting work.
The old Sevenstone plan, which would have created around 100 shops and a new John Lewis store between The Moor, Barker’s Pool and Wellington Street, would have cost up to £600 million. Revisions brought the value down to £400 million.
Hammerson said it had not decided when to begin work on Sheffield’s scheme because it had taken on other commitments including centres in Leeds and Croydon.
When Sheffield Council announced it was ending its agreement with the company, council executive director Simon Green said either one or a number of replacement developers could be brought in.
If Hammerson keep the Pinstone Street buildings, which stretch from opposite the Peace Gardens to Moorhead, one of more other companies would be needed for the rest of the site.
But Richard Wright, executive director of Sheffield Chamber, said: “If Hammerson is still willing to develop that section, that’s great – as long as it fits in with the overall plans for a distinctive city centre. They are a good developer.”
Sheffield Council leader Coun Julie Dore said: “The details of the major development agreement with Hammerson are complex but, one thing is for sure, Sheffield will not be held to ransom by anyone.
“The major development agreement gives us legal options to acquire any land in Hammerson’s ownership, within the development area.”