RETAIL property developer Grosvenor has reiterated it is in Liverpool for the “long haul”.

The company has spoken out in a bid to quash persis-tent rumours in property market circles about a possi-ble sale of its £1bn development site in the city centre.

The rumours emerged following recent sales of some plots in Grosvenor’s Liverpool One scheme – notably to Hilton and Novotel.

But Grosvenor’s project director Rod Holmes said there was no agenda for further sell-offs on completion of the shopping centre project.

He said that, when building work was finished, the city council would grant a 250-year lease to the Grosvenor Liverpool Fund for the core retail area.

Mr Holmes said: "We said we were in this for the long haul and that position hasn't changed. It was also under-stood that there were going to be two or three freehold sites where we could dispose of the freehold interest.

"Two of them are the Hilton and Novotel hotels while we are likely to develop a third area in a joint partnership arrangement at the former NCP car parks and multi-storey in Hanover Street.

“It may be that some of our partner investors may wish to sell their stakes at some stage in the future.”

It has already been revealed that rising construction costs would hit Grosvenor for between £60m £90m, a cost it has taken on the chin.

Mr Holmes added: "There has been a drain on resources because of the city's require-ment that the core area be operational by early 2008. But this means some projects on the periphery of the core area may take a little longer.

"The main retail area will be open before the summer and the rest after that."

The flagship stores John Lewis and Debenham's are currently being fitted out.

Grosvenor Estates spent £140m on land assembly for Liverpool One – thought to £40m more than originally estimated.

The company says it was a victim of its own success – its commitment to such an ambitious project boosted confidence in the city and sent property values soaring.

Mr Holmes added: "Don't forget we had to acquire 174 sites or property leases which was always going to be a difficult task."

The Grosvenor Liverpool Fund will receive rents while the city council will receive ground rent payments.

On completion the site will be run by the Liverpool One management company headed by Joanne Jennings.

Daily Post and Echo