Council leaders were last night no nearer discovering why one of Europe's biggest property groups pulled out of a £23 million deal to acquire a two-acre Birmingham city centre redevelopment site.
HBG Properties, part of a £5 billion Dutch conglomerate, decided against buying the land off Great Charles Street shortly before contracts with the council were due to be signed. The company apologised for embarrassing the council, but blamed unspecified "conditions contained in the original bid" which meant it could not complete the deal.
HBG refused last night to elaborate on its reasons for dropping the project, which would have involved the construction of a £100 million mixed-use scheme on a site that has lain vacant for years.
A spokesman said: "We have nothing further to add".
Birmingham City Council cabinet regeneration member Ken Hardeman remains mystified at the abrupt change of heart.
Coun Hardeman (Con Brandwood) said: "We really don't know why they decided not to go ahead. The conditions we placed in the contract were standard conditions imposed by the council on all developers, so I really don't think that can be the reason.
"The interpretation I have been given is that HBG's UK bidding team always said the deal was conditional on its international board approving the scheme. It appears that did not happen."
Coun Hardeman said he was confident that one of several other developers short-listed by the council would be chosen to take the scheme forward. He hopes to announce a decision by the end of September.
Whoever takes on the task will be expected to come up with imaginative ways of improving pedestrian access between the Jewellery Quarter and the city centre, replacing the narrow Great Charles Street footbridge with an "iconic" structure which the council has likened to the Millennium Bridge across the Thames in London.
The council has already earmarked £1.5 million from the prospective sale of the land to help build a new pedestrian link. "We are determined to improve connectivity between the city and Jewellery Quarter," Coun Hardeman added.