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Developers could be cooking on gas in Chelmsford

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The development of a 15 acre former gasworks and car park in Chelmsford into a retail and residential scheme moved a step forward this week when three companies were shortlisted for the project. Chelmsford Borough Council and National Grid have shortlisted British Land, Bride Hall and Aquila to undertake the Chelmsford Waterside scheme after development was stalled by the onset of the recession. Lend Lease, with backing from Standard Life and the council, was to develop the original 1m sq ft Chelmsford Waterside, but in March 2010 the development agreement as terminated following a lack of progress. The plans originally comprised a retail scheme of around 800,000 sq ft that would have been anchored by a John Lewis department store, as well as around 400 homes. The retail element is now expected to be significantly downsized to reflect the present market conditions and because the development will no longer incorporate Lend Lease's existing 165,000 sq ft Meadows shopping centre and the 42,400 sq ft Meadows Retail Park nearby. Chelmsford Waterside is now understood to be centred on a supermarket of around 150,000 sq ft surrounded by big-box retail, alongside a residential scheme. The retail element will focus on the gasworks site and the residential element predominantly on the car park, but some houses could also be built above the retail. The developer would have the option to develop the entire scheme or just the retail element. It is thought that all three shortlisted parties are focusing on the retail side but, if selected, they could agree a deal with the landowners to work up planning consent for the housing to sell this on to a residential developer. A decision on the final development partner is expected to be made in early 2012. Having stepped back from the Waterside development, Lend Lease is now in talks with Legal & General Property to sell the Meadows shopping centre for around £58m. Standard Life Investments sold Meadows Retail Park to Orchard Street for £13.7m in 2009. John Lewis has now agreed to open a John Lewis at Home store in the Bond Street development in Chelmsford town centre in March 2013. DTZ is advising National Grid and the council. All parties declined to comment.

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