White City plan gets green light

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The Independent Online
A pounds 200m shopping centre development in the heart of London is set to go ahead after it emerged yesterday that Elliott Bernerd's Chelsfield property company has succeeded in its bid to take control of a controversial 37-acre site in White City. writes Tom Stevenson.

The site, larger than Brent Cross in the north of the capital with 5,000 parking spaces, could be worth up to pounds 500m on completion, analysts believe.

Chelsfield has been working for several months on plans to iron out the problems that had dogged the site for years. With part of the site owned by Godfrey Bradman, the former Rosehaugh boss, and planning permission in the hands of Sainsbury's, proposals to develop it appeared to have run into the sand.

Mr Bernerd succeeded, however, in persuading a range of interested parties, including big institutional funds such as General Accident and Scottish Amicable, to sell out or go along with Chelsfield's proposals. The balance of power shifted last September when the property company acquired the Vanderbilt Racquet Club, which occupied part of the site, gaining a place at the negotiating table.

A lease has already been signed by Sainsbury's, which has pre-committed to take 77,500 sq ft of the development for a superstore.

Discussions are also under way with the local planning authority, Hammersmith & Fulham, to agree a detailed planning consent as soon as possible. Once that comes through, construction is expected to begin in the early part of next year with completion before the year 2000.

Chelsfield already owns 90 per cent of the Merry Hill shopping centre in the West Midlands, where rising rents helped it buck the recent trend in the property market with a 6 per cent rise in net assets in the year to December to 190.2p.