Simon Smith and Vaughan Rees recently met Katherine Pearce, the relevant ‘Project Manager’, in continuation of their on-going conversation with City planners on the proposed development of the Black Rock site (the newly termed ‘Waterfront Project’).They were told that the Council is close to finalising a comprehensive agreement with Standard Life, who will be taking the lead on the development of both the Churchill Square and the Black Rock sites. It would seem that it remains firm the aim of the Council to construct a 10,000 seat conference/entertainment centre on an almost certainly enlarged Black Rock site, but that currently this remains ‘a broad concept’ and no more.

With the agreement in place, the Council intends later this year to set a Stakeholder Group (to include the KTS) that will be fully involved in what would appear to be a lengthy consultation process. Initially the Council will wish to discuss ‘key principles’ with the Group, and others, and these will inform the setting of the parameters within which the planning of the development (possibly following an international competition) will proceed. Both the Black Rock and Churchill Square developments will then in parallel be subject to the usual formal planning consents procedures. As you will have read, a Government grant of £12 million has recently been awarded in connection with the Black Rock development. Apparently, this will meet the cost of a series of ‘feasibility studies’ and ‘enabling works’ but on this Ms Pearce appeared somewhat vague.

In the medium/longer terms the Black Rock development will undoubtedly be the most challenging issue to confront the KTS. I would therefore suggest that even at this early stage we should do all that we can to to ensure that we respond authoritatively and speedily to proposals as they come forward – and remain constantly vigilant!