Countryside Properties, Crest Nicholson and Grosvenor are in the running to become the "master development partner" for North-east Somerset council. Originally, 18 developers were invited to pitch for the project, although only six expressed an interest.
British Land had been expected to bid, but it chose not to, despite owning land on the 30 ha site.
The shortlisted developers have been interviewed by the council and the South-West Regional Development Agency. The council is understood to have nominally decided on a preferred bidder. A source close to the project said that the chosen partner is expected to be formally told of its selection by the end of the month.
A bidder confirmed that the parties had not yet been made aware of the outcome of the selection process.
Project sources said the chosen developer is likely to have to find "a couple of hundred million pounds" to develop the site. The developer is expected to sign up to a partnership with the council, as opposed to entering into a joint venture. A partnership would involve a board being set up to oversee the project.
The developer's initial responsibilities will include acquiring land, demolition work, remediation and improvement of transport infrastructure. It will then decide whether to develop the project itself or sell packages of land to other developers to complete the scheme to the specifications of the BDOR/Derek Lovejoy-produced masterplan.
Land acquisition is expected to be complicated as a result of the large number of different landowners on the site. One owner, Landscape Estates, has drawn up its own masterplan for its slice of the site.
A third masterplan by the Council for the Protection of Rural England was also unveiled last year. This proposed a higher density of housing and avoiding the use of green-belt land.
On 1 March, representatives from each of the rival camps will attend a debate chaired by local MP Don Foster.
If planning permission is obtained, work on the 198-home scheme will start in early 2003, with completion earmarked for autumn 2005. London-based practice ECD is architect on the scheme.