DEVELOPER Stanhope is set to pull out of the Maltings and Central car park project, the Journal has learned.

Until recently the London-based real estate company has been described as Wiltshire Council’s “development partner” in the scheme.

But now multiple sources have told the Journal the firm is withdrawing from the development.

Stanhope has refused to confirm or deny if it is still on board with the project.

Wiltshire Council has also refused to confirm the developer’s departure and will only say that it is committed to the scheme and “plans are progressing well”.

After a fanfare arrival in 2012, Stanhope’s departure will follow long periods of silence from the company.

The council had trumpeted the work the firm had done in London on the likes of the Tate Modern, Paternoster Square, Royal Opera House in Covent Garden and the Apple Store at Regent Street as evidence of the thought and quality they would bring to the project.

Stanhope pulling out will leave the council, which owns Central car park, and TH Real Estate, owner of the Maltings, to deliver the project.

The council gave a statement which it had agreed in advance with TH Real Estate, which made no mention of its “development partner” Stanhope.

It said: “Plans to regenerate the Maltings and Central car park to provide a comprehensive retail and leisure scheme for Salisbury City Centre are moving forward.

“The negotiations between the commercial parties to this project remain commercially sensitive. However, the plans are progressing well and we look forward to sharing the development proposals being developed with TH Real Estate with the community later this year.”

It is understood the current negotiations will look to tie up any financial loose ends between Stanhope and the council.

Questions will no doubt be raised about how much public money is involved when the company is set to walk away from this major development before a single brick has been laid.

In February, Wiltshire Council was awarded a government grant of more than £6million towards clearing underground rubble at the site, work needed to make the project economically viable.

In February 2013 Wiltshire Council’s cabinet agreed the council should enter into a development agreement with the preferred bidder for the shopping centre, Stanhope.

At the time the BBC reported that the deal obliged the council to grant Stanhope a long lease of the site once specific conditions had been achieved, such as the granting of planning consent.

The draft proposals included shops, restaurants and leisure facilities. Later the inclusion of 200 homes was announced.

Council officers told the cabinet that not proceeding with the agreement would see the economic vitality of the city centre diminish.

They said retail developments were already taking place or planned in rival shopping destinations including Winchester and Southampton.