A DEVELOPER has dropped a bombshell after putting its part of the Burnley Weavers' Triangle up for sale.

The site is due to be redeveloped with an 800-seat music venue, restaurants, bars, offices and housing in an £50million scheme after outline planning permission was granted last December.

Bosses of Rossendale-based property giant Hurstwood said they had wanted to "test the market" as the scheme had "lost its focus".

But Hurstwood chairman Stephen J Ashworth said a sale was not a "foregone conclusion" and that they remained committed to "pushing the scheme forward".

However council bosses have been left shocked, with the leader of the borough's opposition group saying he feared for the future of the project.

The leader of Burnley Council Gordon Birtwistle said he did not know that it was up for sale until someone showed him a copy of the advert in trade magazine Property Week.

He said he was "taken aback" by the timing of the Hurstwood announcement.

Coun Birtwistle said: "It does seem odd to me that they have been in this so long and now they are thinking of pulling out.

"They did not tell me personally and I'm somewhat disappointed by that.

"It's a surprise but it's not a concern. The regeneration has to happen now. Everything is already in place and if Hurstwood don't do it then some other developer will."

But Burnley council Labour group leader Coun Andy Tatchell said he was "gobsmacked" and "wondering exactly what is going on".

He said: "Now not only is the Oval development in question but this too. I was at the economic and development committee just the other night and nothing was mentioned then, so nobody at all appears to have been informed about this. It's the first I've heard of it.

"We need to know how this is really going to affect the project, and we need to know as soon as possible."

Burnley Council chief executive Steve Rumbelow said he also was not made aware the site was up for sale before the advert was placed.

He said: "We have had talks since then.

"The reality of the position here is that Hurstwood, for their own reasons, have decided that they may have taken this project as far as they can take it.

"They are a local business which has been a good partner and they have done an awful lot of work to take that project forward.

"If they have got reasons for wanting to examine and test the market - that's up to them."

Hurstwood chairman Mr Ashworth said the company was considering its options.

He said work was being completed on a fresh planning application for the site.

Mr Ashworth said: "We operate in a commercial world and we have to look at the bigger picture "We have become frustrated as we feel the project has lost its focus in recent months and we believe we need to get back to basics and focus once again on a scheme for the Weavers' Triangle that is capable of being delivered."

Mr Ashworth praised the firm's "excellent working relationship" with the borough council and urged the authority to continue to support the original vision for the development.

He said: "While a sale remains an option, in fact there has been a lot of interest from developers, we would also like to point out that we would only consider selling if the right developer came along.

"In the meantime we are continuing to work with the council and remain as committed as ever to pushing the scheme forward."

Elevate, the regeneration agency aiming to regeneration East Lancashire, is also planning to develop a separate part of the Weavers' Triangle by creating a Fashion Tower containing shops and business premises.

Max Steinberg, chief executive of Elevate, said: "We remain committed to moving forward with the Weavers' Triangle project.

"It is one of the most iconic and imaginative developments in the north west."