Firm needs to raise £23 million to fund M&S retail park for Scunthorpe
THE firm behind the proposed M&S retail park on the outskirts of Scunthorpe must raise more than £23 million before the project can proceed, bosses have revealed.
Simons Developments is bringing forward a scheme that would include Marks & Spencer, Debenhams, Boots, Costa Coffee and Subway.
The company is looking for an investor to finance the development and will not begin work until it has the £23.325 million required.
But despite the funding gap, Simons officials are confident they will get the money.
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Chris Newsome, development director for the firm, said: "It is a perfectly normal method of working and it is the way we have worked since our development company was founded in 1960.
"It is called forward funding and it is a perfectly normal method.
"The scheme will be funded. That is the bottom line and I have no doubt whatsoever."
Mr Newsome said discussions were ongoing with potential investors and said one company would provide the full amount.
He said: "It will be a pension fund.
"They will have investments in all different kinds of things and one of those will be property.
"We have been in discussions with several and we are still in discussions with several."
Mr Newsome said no timescale was currently in place for having the funding secured.
But he said it had to be clinched before building work can begin on-site.
He said: "We always know the pension fund is there before we press go because that is the way it works.
"There is huge demand for this product and we need to get the right investor for what we want to achieve.
"We will want to start on-site as soon as we can.
"There is no immediate rush but from nearly everybody's perspective, as soon as we can would be good."
Planning permission for the retail park was granted by North Lincolnshire Council in March last year. The decision came despite objections from town centre traders and some residents, centring on the project's impact on the High Street.
Traffic and environmental concerns were also raised. A legal challenge to the council's decision was mounted by the owners of The Foundry.
It was thrown out by a High Court judge in December.
A decision is still pending on whether Zurich Assurance Ltd can launch a fresh appeal that could stop the development.
A spokesman for the Keep Scunthorpe Alive campaign group said: "We have always been concerned about the nature of the funding for the proposed retail park.
"This has just proved that our concerns were right all along. Since the planning application was passed, you can see what is happening to our town centre.
"It is closure after closure and retailers are fearing the opening of that retail park."