‘£100m game changer will go ahead’ in­sist town hall chiefs

Rochdale Observer - - FRONT PAGE - Damon.wilkin­son@men-news.co.uk @Da­monWilkin­son6

ROCHDALE coun­cil chiefs are to press ahead with £100m plans to transform Rochdale town cen­tre - de­spite Marks and Spencer pulling out of the flag­ship pro­ject.

At a pri­vate meet­ing on Thurs­day Cab­i­net mem­bers voted to con­tinue with the Rochdale River­side scheme.

In a state­ment re­leased af­ter the meet­ing coun­cil leader Allen Brett said the author­ity wasn’t go­ing to let the M&S de­ci­sion ‘de­rail... this game-chang­ing de­vel­op­ment’. And the coun­cil’s re­gen­er­a­tion chief John Blun­dell says a num­ber of ‘high pro­file an­nounce­ments’ about the pro­ject will be made in the next few weeks.

It’s un­der­stood the cab­i­net was pre­sented with four op­tions, one of which was to scrap the plans en­tirely.

Other op­tions put to cab­i­net were to de­lay the de­ci­sion on whether to pro­ceed un­til the M&S is­sue was re­solved or to de­lay the de­ci­sion un­til a new ten­ant was found.

As the Observer re­ported last month M&S said they had taken the ‘tough de­ci­sion’ to aban­don plans to close its ex­ist­ing York­shire Street store and move to Rochdale River­side.

It led to fears the en­tire pro­ject could be jeop­ar­dised.

But Coun Brett said M&S have signed a ‘legally bind­ing con­tract to take space in the Rochdale River­side de­vel­op­ment and we fully ex­pect them to honour that com­mit­ment’.

He added: “We’re not go­ing to let this is­sue de­rail what will be a fan­tas­tic de­vel­op­ment for the peo­ple of our bor­ough, bring­ing 24 shops and restau­rants and a six-screen cin­ema, to the heart of the town cen­tre.

“We will con­tinue to work with our part­ner, Genr8, to de­liver this game chang­ing de­vel­op­ment for our res­i­dents and vis­i­tors.”

Coun Blun­dell said: “We’re gear­ing up to make a num­ber of high pro­file an­nounce­ments about the scheme in the next few weeks and more extensive ground in­ves­ti­ga­tions, needed to as­sess con­di­tions be­fore con­struc­tion starts, will be get­ting un­der way next week.

“This is about a new and ex­cit­ing fu­ture for Rochdale and we fully in­tend to de­liver it.”

But the de­ci­sion to hold the meet­ing in pri­vate has been crit­i­cised by op­po­si­tion coun­cil­lors.

Coun Ash­ley Dearn­ley, leader of Rochdale’s Con­ser­va­tives, said: “I un­der­stand the le­gal is­sues, but this is too big a de­ci­sion to made in pri­vate by a hand­ful of coun­cil­lors.

●●An artist’s im­pres­sion of the planned £100m River­side de­vel­op­ment in the town cen­tre

●●Coun­cil leader Allen Brett said the Marks and Spencer is­sue would not de­rail their plans

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