Blue Circle site sold for shops

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The Independent Online
BRITAIN'S biggest shopping centre is to be built close to the Dartford Bridge in Kent following the purchase by an Australian property and financial services group of one of Blue Circle's former chalk quarries.

The pounds 50m acquisition by Lend Lease of Bluewater Park is the first stage of a pounds 350m project designed to rival the Lakeside shopping centre on the other side of the Thames at Thurrock.

Planning consent for the scheme was obtained in 1990, before John Gummer, Environment Secretary, clamped down on out- of-town shopping centres.

Tony Kemp, managing director of Blue Circle Properties, said there was demand for the planned 1.6 million square feet of leisure and retail space. A quarter of the UK population is estimated to live within an hour's drive of the site.

He said competition from Lakeside should not be a problem as less than 10 per cent of its custom was from over the river.

Blue Circle could make a profit of up to pounds 89m on the site if it receives the maximum agreed cut from a profit-share agreement with the developers. Prudential is also expected to take an equity stake from Lend Lease.

The success of the scheme may also depend on whether Ebbsfleet, a Blue Circle land holding nearby, is chosen by the Government next week as the intermediate station for the Channel Tunnel rail link.