HEREFORD’S £90m retail development on the old cattle market is set to open in 2014 now the deal was finally signed off this week.

But crucial papers that show how the deal was done will stay secret as access to minutes from meetings of the Hereford Futures board has been refused to a key council oversight committee.

A special meeting of Herefordshire Council’s cabinet on Monday did agree though to address conditions proposed by a scrutiny committee to safeguard the development under European procurement laws and prove value for money.

Cabinet was unanimous in its support for the scheme and the extra £500,000 that the Hereford Times revealed was needed off the council by funding partner British Land to cover a shortfall caused by “changing market conditions”.

Cabinet’s approval is still open to a legal challenge but effectively means the deal can finally be confirmed as done, having passed through its political process 12 years after development of the cattle market was first pitched.

Demolition of the market site is expected to be complete by January with the development itself – including a Debenhams department store, Waitrose and multi-screen Odeon cinema along with a number of restaurants and other shops - due to open by autumn 2014.

Alistair Shaw, development director at Stanhope said: “It has been an enormously complex process but British Land’s total buy-in and vision for the opportunity the Old Market development presents for Hereford has prevailed, despite the unprecedented economic conditions being faced nationwide.

“We thank the people of Herefordshire for their patience and support and are delighted we can now repay them by delivering an attractive and exciting new retail and leisure addition to the city centre, bringing jobs, work streams and a reinvigorated evening economy.”

Story by Paul Broome and Bill Tanner.