12Apr91 UK: SOUTHPORT WINTER GARDENS SET FOR SELL-OFF AFTER ATTEMPTS TO FIND NEW CONTRACTOR ARE ABANDONED.

The troubled £40 million Winter Gardens project in Southport, Lancashire, is to be sold off even though it is only one-third complete.Efforts to find another contractor to finish the work have now been abandoned and administrative receiver Ernst Young has ditched plans to reorganise developer next surge to attract a buyer.Now Ernst Young has asked agent Hillier Parker to invite offers for the 6 ha site, which is described as 'suitable for retail and leisure or other use.'David Martin, an associate partner of Hillier Parker, said it was now a case of 'no reasonable offer refused.'He said that confidential talks were proceeding with at least six nationally-known developers.'We shall be upset and surprised if the fate of the project is not known by this summer,' he said.'The companies are interested in the site either to complete the existing development or to redevelop it for alternative uses.'Nigel Hamilton, an international partner of Ernst Young said: 'We are ruling nothing out. We have a legal duty to recover as much as possible for creditors.'Work on the Winter Gardens stopped a year ago following the crash of Rush and Tompkins, the main contractor. Sibec, the developer, is in administration.Ernst Young was called in last February as administrative receiver for Nextsurge, a consortium of Rush and Tompkins, Sibec and German contractor Hochtief, which was set up especially for the project.When work stopped, 4,000 tonnes of steel had been erected, together with a 9,000 sq m department store roofed in and brick clad.If the project is completed and not redeveloped, unpaid subcontractors would be in a strong position to negotiate trade-off contracts.

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