Nicholsons development start date pushed back to summer 2023, forum told

Shay Bottomley

Development on the Nicholsons Centre is unlikely to begin before the summer of 2023, a forum has heard.

Plans to regenerate the shopping centre into a new Nicholsons Quarter were approved by councillors in March 2021.

The council currently holds a freehold on the southern section of the site, and has been negotiating with existing businesses to purchase the remainder of the proposed redevelopment area.

A compulsory purchase order notice was published in the Advertiser in March 2022, although the process had ‘curtailed’ by the following month.

At Monday’s disability and inclusion forum, Ian Brazier-Dubber, managing director of RBWM Property Company, told attendees that the progress of development had ‘slightly slipped’.

It comes as a public inquiry is expected to be held in October this year, held by an independent planning inspector appointed by Secretary of State Michael Gove.

“[The inquiry] will hear different views about different peoples’ interests in the site, and how they will be dealt with on that basis,” said Mr Brazier-Dubber.

“That inquiry is a fully-independent inquiry where we will give evidence about the future development of the site, and will then be taken away and scrutinised by the Secretary of State.

“Should the compulsory purchase order be granted, that will provide the opportunity for the development to go ahead, and ensure that all the right compensation was paid to those who have interests in the site from a commercial point of view where they have a lease, or a freehold in the site.

“We understand from (developers) Areli that their programme for development of the site has slightly slipped – as you can see we’re now sat in the middle of June.

“Should we get the CPO granted, then it will be likely that Areli would be looking to develop the site starting summer to late-summer 2023.”

The managing director added that Areli had a two-year build programme, starting with the redvelopmentt of the Nicholsons car park.

Dominic Manley, a member of the forum, said he was ‘a bit disappointed’ that the development had been pushed back.

“We were told in December last year that work would start probably in November this year – I know it’s been kicked back at least nine months, but somehow, mysteriously, the delivery point still hasn’t changed and it’s still 2025.

“Do you really think that a two-year build programme is realistic? It seems almost miraculous that they could do that.”

In response, Mr Brazier-Dubber said he ‘had to take the developer’s word for what they suggest’, but admitted ‘a two-year concentrated build is quite tight’, although that the main parts of the development would be delivered within the timescale.

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