Bradford Council could "call in" Westfield for showdown negotiations if the Australian company does not start construction work on the Broadway shopping scheme before the New Year, it was revealed today.
Councillor Andrew Mallinson, the Council's executive member for regeneration, said the Council had a number of powers at its disposal to bring Westfield on to site.
The most extreme option would involve the Council beginning proceedings to take back the site, which has been in the hands of Westfield for more than three years.
When it acquired the site in March 2004, Westfield said it was determined the showpiece centre would still open by the Christmas 2007 deadline outlined by previous owner Stannifer.
More recently, Tony Reeves, the Council's chief executive, said he expected to see work start by the end of this year, while others, including Coun Mallinson and Westfield's project manager, Richard Ellis, hinted that October would be the key month.
Coun Mallinson said: "If we don't see any serious action on the site before Christmas, we will be forced to call Westfield in and have some serious negotiations and look at the options the Council can use to bring them on to site as soon as possible.
"We could instigate taking back the site from Westfield, but that has legal and financial implications. But that is certainly an option available for the Council to pursue. There has been correspondence between the Chief Executive (of the Council) and the directors of Westfield.
"On a number of occasions, we have aired our frustrations and have continued to beat our chests.
"Westfield are regarded as worldwide specialists in the retail sector. For a local authority to step in and start proceedings to take back the site, we would first have to ask the question who is better to deliver this scheme? If Westfield can't get enough retailers signed up, who can?"
Coun Mallinson was speaking after Westfield issued a statement outlining the latest situation regarding the £300m scheme.
The statement said: "Agreeing heads of terms with Marks & Spencer is a significant milestone in the development of Broadway. To date, Westfield have invested over £60 million on the scheme, however the situation remains that Westfield needs to secure the necessary number of retail pre-lets and achieve approval from our company board before work can begin on construction.
"We remain fully committed to Bradford and are working continuously to make this scheme a reality.
"The completion of Westfield Derby means that there are an increasing number of construction personnel now working on the Bradford project, some of whom are now based at the Bradford office and are working hard on the delivery of the project.
"Further site investigation and preparation work is expected soon. Once we are able to announce an official start date we will do."
The T&A asked Westfield for the names of other retailers that have signed up, what percentage of pre-lets is needed before work can begin and how many have been secured so far. Westfield did not wish to add to its original statement.
Meanwhile, Lib Dem councillor David Ward said he was angry because he believed residents of the district and businesses would not benefit from the predicted jobs boom the Broadway scheme could deliver.
He said: "It seems to me that the chances of opportunities permeating down to local businesses are limited and should any local people benefit from jobs or training it will be nothing more than a chance occurrence."