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£200m shopping spree


FAMILIAR FOES Laing O'Rourke and Sir Robert McAlpine will go head to head in the race for a £200 million shopping cent re in the West Count ry The two are chasing the Southgate development in Bath, which will regenerate the area around the city's railway station.

Bovis Lend Lease had shown interest in the scheme but gave up the chase to concentrate on other work.

The shopping centre, which will replace a rundown complex, will include a department store, smaller retail units, leisure facilities, restaurants, cafes and 91 new homes. The scheme is being developed by Morley Fund Management and Shearer Property Holdings, which has brought in Buro Four for project management and Chapman Taylor as architect.

So far the two firms have submitted bids for the first phase of the project, which is a £10.5 million transport interchange. Bids for the remaining work go in later this summer.

The transport interchange, designed by architect Wilkinson Eyre, will comprise a four-storey rotunda for office facilities, 16 bus bays, a 724-space underground car park and a new pedestrian plaza.

As part of the development, vaults designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel will be uncovered and converted for commercial use.

Along with Bovis Lend Lease the two firms are continuing to clear up the shopping centre market. The three are already on the shortlist for the £500 million Broadmeed centre in Bristol, the £300 million Shires centre in Leicester and the £240 million St David's 2 in Cardiff.

One contractor said: 'Once jobs like this get over £60 million there aren't many other firms that can do them. So we end up going up against the same lot every time. You still have to fight for everything though, because the clients don't start to think about sharing it out.

'That isn't what we would want anyway. You never know what the future will hold so we make sure we go for every bit of business we can.' The Southgate development is being considered by a planning inspector at the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, who will decide shortly whether to grant a Compulsory Purchase Order.

The developer is hoping that construction will begin at the end of this year. Work will take at least two years to complete.