THE man behind the £46m Innox Riverside redevelopment said he is surprised that under pressure supermarket chain Morrisons has listed Trowbridge’s former Bowyers factory for sale this week.

Concerns about Morrisons pulling out of the development have been growing ever since it reported an annual loss of £792million in March, with work on the site coming to an abrupt halt after contractors demolished disused factory buildings at the end of last year.

Developer Prorsus told the Wiltshire Times last week that the grocer still expected to build the development, consisting of a Cineworld cinema, Morrisons store, six restaurants and a pub.

However, the site has now been listed on the website of commercial property and planning consultants Rapleys, which states that the closing date for offers is 12noon on July 6.

Angus Horner, managing director of Prorsus, said: “A matter of weeks ago, Prorsus contemplated buying back the Bowyers site from Morrisons, to help to push the project forwards more quickly, on the assumption that Morrisons would still operate a new supermarket on the site. 

“I am surprised that the property has now been put onto the open market, without prior discussion with stakeholders, but that is not an entirely unusual course of action for a major PLC that is evidently under some pressure.  

“Presumably Morrisons now has insufficient clarity about how to progress with its own overall UK sites programme, to enable it to carry on building at Bowyers.

“Prorsus is taking new professional advice about the site's current value, before deciding whether to offer to buy the site in from Morrisons.”

Mr Horner added: “I am personally extremely disappointed for local people that they are probably not now going to be given the exact development project that they fought so hard for. That said, a sale ought to accelerate redevelopment on the site, which will be a good thing for Trowbridge.”

The listing says that the 4.30ha site is available for sale and has the “potential for a range of uses”, with “planning permission for mixed use scheme including foodstore”.

A spokesman for Morrisons told the Wiltshire Times: “We are in the process of reviewing our new store requirements and as part of this process we need to consider all available options. 

“To help us undertake the review we have appointed property agents to fully explore all possibilities for the future of the Trowbridge site.”

Wiltshire Council initially rejected Prorsus’ plans to build on the derelict Bowyers site in 2012, which has previously housed a wide variety of businesses over the years.

Both the council and Legal and General both argued that a new cinema in Trowbridge would be hugely detrimental to the existing Odeon cinema at the St Stephen’s Place Leisure complex.

However, Prorsus appealed against the decision and in January last year, following a three-day hearing, the Planning Inspectorate approved the scheme.

Wiltshire and Trowbridge Councillor Graham Payne said: “It is very sad news that Morrisons have seemingly pulled out after building up the hopes of everyone in the town.

“It should not be used for housing as Trowbridge needs jobs, with a capital J. We have enough housing on the books, but we need more jobs to cope with the growing population.

“The residents showed a lot of support to the redevelopment when it was first muted by Wiltshire Council, despite the application coming in before St Stephen’s Place, and they want is transformed from an ugly derelict mess to something that will help the town prosper.”

Fleur de Rhe Philipe, cabinet member for economic development at Wiltshire Council, said: “This is a gateway site for Trowbridge so it’s important it has the right mix of development, which complements the historic town centre and enhances the vitality of the town.

‘We are looking forward to working with the new purchaser to ensure the best outcome to regenerate the site and bring investment into the town. 

"We believe development on this site can bring in real benefits, building on Trowbridge’s recent success in securing the cinema and restaurants in St Stephen’s Place and the new retail led development for the former Peter Black’s site.

"With the opening of St Stephen’s Place, people can see the benefits new development brings to the town.”