Losing bidders protest after council and development agency fail to disclose full selection criteria

A row has broken out in Rochdale after a dramatic u-turn by the council over the £250m redevelopment of its town centre.

Wilson Bowden had been chosen last year to build the retail-led scheme but Rochdale council announced last week that it would have to retender after it received a legal challenge from losing bidders.

Danczuk: RDA made an “utter mess”
Danczuk: RDA made an “utter mess”

Shopping centre owner Sultan Properties and Ask Developments challenged the decision because Rochdale Development Agency (RDA) and the council had failed to disclose the full criteria of the selection procedure or the weighting it was planning to give each aspect. Recent test cases have rules that public agencies have to provide this information when tendering through the Official Journal.

Simon Danczuk, the Labour parliamentary candidate for Rochdale, said: “The agency made an utter mess of it. John Hudson, the chief executive, should resign or be sacked. The public’s views were never taken into account.”

But sources close to the council pointed out that a firm that Danczuk founded, Vision 21, is employed by one of the losing bidders, Sultan Properties.

The RDA also robustly rejected the criticism: “To suggest that Rochdale Development Agency is responsible for the re-run of the developer selection is simply wrong, and personal attacks are not helpful. A number of partners jointly managed the tender process and the OJEU guidelines were strictly followed.”

The council said the re-tender would be complete by March next year, and would delay the scheme by about a month because it was also dependent on the relocation of council offices and a bus station. It estimated the project would start on site in 2011.

Roger Ellis, chief executive of Rochdale council, said: “A drawn-out legal dispute would have led to significant delays as well as substantial costs.”

The scheme was the third large Rochdale project to be handed to Barratt, which owns Wilson Bowden; a business park and the redevelopment of the town’s housing stock are the other two.