Developers Centros have not yet submitted their case, but the deadline for them to do so has been extended to March 13th which means that they can still submit, so the inquiry still looks to be going ahead at this stage.
Even though Centros is experiencing difficulties elsewhere, campaigners against present plans, who have suggested alternative uses for the site, are determined to keep up the pressure against the proposed development.
"If Centros see hundreds of people objecting, it will be a huge hurdle that might just be enough to put them off," commented one campaigner.
Last month, Centros told virtual-lancaster that they had no comment to make at this stage on their plans. "We will make a statement about the inquiry at the appropriate time," said Centros spokesperson Steve Bryson.
Despite the economic downturn, Centros has opened its development in Bury St. Edmunds and almost two thirds of the 265,000 sq ft scheme is now open and trading and is currently just under 90% let, including the Debenhams store. Property Week reports the remaining confirmed retailers will open in the next few weeks. Tenants include Top Shop, Next and H&M with 62 studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments now on offer, situated above the retailers.
The centre will be owned and operated by Delancey, who bought Miller’s 50% equity stake in what was then Centros Miller in January last year and took on Centros Miller’s debt.
Things are not so good elsewhere for the company: Centros' £500 million plans for the Northern Quarter in Portsmouth, which would have seen 80 new shops, as well as restaurants, cafes and a hotel built in the city centre, have been abandonned as a result of the economic downturn.
Local paper The News reported earlier this month that doubts and delays to the now-cancelled scheme have meant traders in the city's Commercial Road have been affected by the Northern Quarter scheme. In 2006, the city council served Compulsory Purchase Orders on businesses it needed to clear for the development, which made it nearly impossible for traders to sell their businesses to anyone else and pointless to spend on improvements. Now Centros has announced it would not be able to get the scheme under way before the CPOs expire in December 2010.
On its Castle View site, Centros says it has lined up a huge range of retailers interested in taking stores in the new Lancaster development, including Borders, French Connection, Gap, Primark, Sony, Laura Ashley, TK Maxx and Miss Selfridge: however, the list would appear to be out of date as it includes some retailers that have closed or re-branded since the start of the current economic downturn, including Virgin Megastore - re-named Zavvi in the UK, but which has just announced the closure of all its US stores.
Meanwhile, possibly due in part to the same kind of uncertainty over Lancaster's future retail provision that faced Portsmouth retailers, but largely the result of the credit crunch, some of Lancaster's current shops are soon to close: clothes retailers Wallis after a rent hike, and Monsoon will reportedly shutter soon and there are concerns that other stores are also facing difficulties. Many landlords, however, still seem set on keeping rents high at the expense of bringing new business into the city.
• Any correspondence concerning the Canal Corridor application should be sent to the Planning Inspectorate at:- The Planning Inspectorate PINS SAC(B)Room 3/17, Temple Quay House, 2 The Square, Temple Quay, Bristol, BS1 6PN. Their telephone number is 0117 372 8918 and fax 0117 372 8181.
• It's Our City Campaign Site
• Centros' Castle View Development Site
• Council Regeneration Strategy documents on the council web site (PDF files)