Page last updated at 17:57 GMT, Monday, 23 June 2008 18:57 UK

Maze rejection risks 10,000 jobs

Plans to build the stadium at the Maze have proved controversial
Plans to build the stadium at the Maze have proved controversial

Ministers have been warned that 10,000 jobs could be at risk if they reject plans for development at the Maze.

The warning is contained in a high level briefing paper prepared for the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister, seen by the BBC.

A document leaked last month prepared by officials within the Finance Department put the costs of a multi-sports stadium at the Maze at 379m.

The latest paper outlines the potential consequences of doing nothing.

Last month's US investment conference was designed to convince the American business community this is a good place to invest.

By video link President Bush said it was clear Northern Ireland was "open to foreign investment".

But this document warns that rejecting the Maze plan could send out the opposite signal.

Private sector companies were invited to bid for the lucrative contract to develop the Maze in December 2006.

Bids were evaluated in October, when a preferred developer was selected although they were not named - or informed of the result - as politicians decided whether to proceed with the project.

The Maze
How the Maze site could look if the plans get the go ahead

This document says that while bids were due to run out at the end of January 2008, they were extended until the end of last month.

It goes on to say that "ministers should be aware of the implications of allowing the procurement to lapse without a clear decision" or of "turning down without full consideration of more detailed information from the bidder a potentially viable deal" that might be viewed at a future date by the NI Audit Office or the Public Accounts Committee as "offering good value compared with doing nothing or developing other equally beneficial alternatives".

At the same time the document says officials have a number of major concerns about issues arising from the negotiations with the bidders or requiring detailed clarification.

The Texas-based Hillwood Corporation chaired by the billionaire Ross Perot jr is understood to have won the competition to become the preferred bidder for the Maze development.

The document prepared for the First Minister and Deputy First Minister says the "most economically advantageous bid" is from "a major world-class developer" which offers a "conveyor belt" of employment opportunities from Fortune 500 companies" - those are America's top corporations.

Significantly the document suggests the development "could result in 10,000 jobs".

It adds "the risk in refusal is of sending the message that NI is not open for business, especially so soon after the investment conference".

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