Thursday, November 3, 2016

News: Commercial partner sought for Bassingthorpe Farm

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The controversial development site at Bassingthorpe Farm in Rotherham is heading to the market with the landowners looking for commercial partners to help bring forward 2,400 dwellings and 11 hectares for employment use.

As part of the Local Plan core strategy that was adopted by the Council in 2014, the 215 hectare area close to Rotherham town centre has been removed from the Green Belt and designated as a Strategic Allocation and the main location for new housing, employment and retail growth.

2,400 dwellings could be joined by 11 hectares for employment use, a local health centre, primary school, and a local centre together with the green and social infrastructure necessary to create facilities to serve the new and existing communities.

Around 57 hectares (26%) of the site is under Rotherham Council's ownership.

Rotherham Council has been leading on the proposals for a number of years, and is working collaboratively with major landowner, Fitzwilliam (Wentworth) Estates, on how to bring forward the project.

Masterplans and concept frameworks have been drawn up and with funding from the Homes & Communities Agency (HCA), consultants have been working on different aspects of the development.

Council Commissioners are now being asked to make a key decision on a potential disposal of its land and a number of options have been assessed, from selling Council sites on the open market, to direct development between the Council and Fitzwilliam (Wentworth) Estates.

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With Commissioner approval, a "Promotion Partner" is set to appointed bringing skills and funding to facilitate the delivery of the site.

Commercial property and real estate consultants at Cushman and Wakefield have recommended this option to the Council stating that these type of agreements involve the partner taking on responsibility for securing planning permission, marketing and disposing of the land to end users, such as house builders, in exchange for a share of the receipts (typically around 15-20%).

The advice reads: "In this scenario, the partner does not take ownership of the site but uses their funds and expertise to maximise value. It favours property speculators rather than developers per se. Because the promotion partner has a vested interest in maximising land value, promotion agreements are particularly favourable for land owners wishing to share in the pursuit of higher land value returns."

With a Landowner Agreement in place, this route also sets out milestones and obligations for receipts to the landowners.

As the official tendering process is expensive and long, the Council is also set to include the option to appoint a delivery partner if a promotion partner cannot be found. Popular with house-builders, this route involves partners taking options to purchase the land outright.

It could take until 2018 before a partner is confirmed and until October 2020 before works start on site.

One of the issues to be overcome is the viability of the whole development. Previous work has shown estimated delivery costs of over £350m with the infrastructure needed to bring forward houses, associated retail and employment uses estimated at over £50m.

Early discussions have taken place with Sheffield city region (SCR) to explore whether funding could be secured towards the site infrastructure costs given the strategic importance of the site to the city region.

A report to the upcoming Cabinet and Commissioners Decision Making Meeting, states: "The development offers the potential to meet a significant part of the Borough's housing requirement over the next 20 years. It also offers an attractive housing proposition for the Sheffield City Region with its close proximity to Rotherham town centre and other major development initiatives including the Advanced Manufacturing Park and Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District (AMID).

"The scale of the development does mean there will be implications across the Council and for other partner organisations, some of which have already been identified (Finance, Legal, Transport, Education, Health etc.). Consultations with partners and other colleagues will take place in the coming months to ensure all resultant implications are identified, recorded and managed accordingly through a project management approach."

Images: RMBC


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