A £500m bid to make Kingston’s retail quarter rival the West End with a revamp has collapsed at the 11th hour.

Developer Hammerson had promised to rejuvenate Eden Quarter and turn it into a big draw for shoppers, with 3,000 jobs promised and a boost for the local economy.

But the seven-year negotiations fell through at a meeting behind closed doors on September 29 after last-minute disagreements over the size of the redevelopment.

Kingston Council had wanted a new two-level shopping street, the pedestrianisation of Eden Street, 250 new homes and a public square, car park and bus station.

But talks floundered when Hammerson cut the area it would develop by 60 per cent.

Graham McNally, Kingston town centre manager, said it would be a “lost opportunity” if the investment did not go ahead in the future.

He said: “We would have failed the broader community.

“We have to be able to compete with the new centres that are developing, such as Westfield and Bluewater.

“We already know we are smaller than some of those spaces so we need this as we will fall out of the top 20 retail destinations, and that is not what we want to achieve.”

However, Kingston Council leader Councillor Derek Osbourne said while the authority still wanted the area to be redeveloped, the chances of it happening over the next few years were limited.

He said: “We can’t get what we believe we need in the medium term. The economy is not strong enough to do that.

“The issue is capital in a capital-starved market place – not many developers have cash in their pockets.

“Ultimately, the council was left without the confidence that Hammerson would deliver the redevelopment of the area that we wanted.

“It came up with proposals for a much smaller area, which made some of the most exciting parts of its original proposals problematic.”

Hammerson said it remained committed to delivering a plan within the 2008 framework.

Director Peter Cole said: “As a significant landowner in the town, Hammerson remains committed to helping the council deliver a vision for Kingston.

“However, in the light of the economic environment and the council’s decision, delivery will clearly take longer than originally anticipated.

“We continue to believe the proposals for Eden Quarter will improve this area of the town and deliver significant investment and job creation, in the region of 3,000 new jobs.

“We look forward to continuing to work with the council and hope the recent decision won’t delay this for too long.”

Fears Kingston could lose its position as a top regional shopping centre lay behind the ambitious plans to transform the Eden Quarter.

A retail survey in 2002 called for more retail space and a park and ride scheme, and a 2006 report said “the majority of retail stock in the town fails to meet modern retail requirements”.

Talks on a 20-year vision for the town centre started in 2001, and it was hoped work would start in 2011.

Developer Hammerson, which owns the former post office building in Ashdown Road, was first appointed in 2003, but plans were thrown into chaos in 2007 when a European Court ruling forced the council to retender.

The council restarted exclusive negotiations with Hammerson last year, and had to decide by the end of last month whether to continue.

Talks to save the deal continued until the day before the council’s executive met, but the two sides could not reconcile their different visions.

Commercial real estate developer Andrew Lewis described Hammerson’s initial proposals as an “outstanding opportunity” that would bolster Kingston’s position.

Key aims included increasing retail space by building on ground level car parks, lowering commercial rents and encouraging new and small shops.

A 2005 public consultation showed 77 per cent support for the overall vision, but a third of people had concerns about the new housing.

Jennifer Butterworth, of the Kingston upon Thames Society, said: “We had grave doubts about Eden Quarter in the first place. It left untouched things we felt were an eyesore.

“In a way, perhaps you could say we are relieved.

Obviously with the cuts coming it’s rather difficult to have any new scheme for the future.”


* New, two-level shopping street
* Pedestrianisation of Eden Street
* 250 residential units above retail blocks
* New community facilities for a library or voluntary groups
* New town square surrounded by shops and restaurants
* New car park for 1,500 vehicles
* New bus station

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