Bradford Council last night demanded MP Gerry Sutcliffe explain himself after he claimed Westfield had discussed offering the stalled Broadway shopping centre site back to the authority.
Council chief executive Tony Reeves has “categorically” denied any discussions have taken place about taxpayers buying back the Broadway site.
And he urged Mr Sutcliffe to “clarify” his statements about the £320 million development which is regarded as being fundamental to the city centre’s regeneration.
In a strongly worded statement, Mr Reeves said Westfield remained committed despite the “frustrating” delays in building the shopping centre and had spent £80m so far, of which £60m had been
invested in preparatory site works in the past year.
There are around 30 major shopping schemes in the development pipeline in England at present and all bar one or two of them are currently on hold due to the recession, he said.
“There are good reasons for the delay here in Bradford, all of which are attributed to the global credit crunch and subsequent recession,” said Mr Reeves.
“Retail rents nationally have fallen by more than a third, retail land values nationally have dropped by more than 50 per cent and retailers’ confidence and, therefore, their preparedness to sign
leases on new premises has disappeared nationally.
“These issues mean that schemes such as Westfield Bradford and all of the others on hold nationwide, are simply not viable in the short term.
“There have categorically not been any discussions between Westfield and the Council about the Council buying back the Broadway site.
“The Council is asking Gerry Sutcliffe MP to clarify the statements that he has made today regarding the Westfield development in Bradford.”
Mr Sutcliffe was not available to comment last night.
He spoke out about Westfield to the BBC’s Inside Out programme after Roger Owen, former group property director of supermarket giant Morrisons, said he had had a conversation with the Sports
Minister, in which he revealed one of Westfield’s options was to sell back the site to Bradford Council.
In the programme, aired last night, Mr Sutcliffe stood by the claim. He said: “It’s my understanding that Westfield are prepared to discuss moving out if there’s an appropriate agreement.”