Councillor Eamonn O’Brien, Leader and Cabinet Member for Strategic Growth and Skills, presented the report which provided an update on the disposal of three council owned sites on Brownfield land: Seedfields school site, School Street, and Green Street in Radcliffe.
It was noted that the proposed developments will deliver 309 new homes including 142 Affordable homes as well as recreational contributions via S.106 agreements and enable the council to deliver the aspirations of the Radcliffe SRF and the Councils Let’s Do It Housing strategy. The commercial terms for contracting with Hive Homes on the School St and Seedfield sites had been confirmed via independent Red Book valuations and the offer received from Watson Homes at Green St had also been verified by the same method. The off-market solution offered by Hive Homes and Watson Homes offered best value and accelerated housing delivery programmes, with the benefit of Brownfield Housing Funding on the School Street and Seedfield sites helping to unlock this brownfield site for the benefit of families, including those on lower incomes.
In response to some comments from opposition Councillors regarding availability of brownfield land, and crime and deprivation levels in the area, the Leader responded that if brownfield sites were not utilised then development would be needed on greenbelt land, which was not something the Council wanted to pursue. He advised of the high ambitions for Radcliffe, that it was a great place to live and therefore was a key site for development and regeneration. The Council were developing a new school, new housing sites (including affordable housing), new leisure facilities, and a new civic hub, as well as a People and Communities plan in addition to this physical regeneration. He acknowledged there were challenges but stated that the positives of the area should be recognised and improved, which is what the Council were doing with its current investment and development plans.
Other opposition Councillors voiced their support of the report, recognising that this addressed the need to regenerate the area, with the Council’s plans using its own investment as well as Government funding.
1. Approved the updated financial offer by the preferred developer of Hive Homes to enable disposal of land at School Street and Seedfields for housing development.
2. Noted the imminent exchange of Green Street in Radcliffe with Watson Homes, approved for disposal in October 2021.
3. Approved the commercial terms of the disposals of School Street and Seedfields as set out in this report.
4. Delegated the finalised terms of the land sale agreements to the Executive Director of Place in consultation with the Cabinet Member for Finance and Communities, S151 Officer and Monitoring Officer.
Reasons for the decision:
· The revised offers on School St and Seedfield sites enables the acceleration of key Brownfield sites helping to deliver Bury’s Housing Strategy 2021, the Councils Strategic Regeneration Framework for Radcliffe
· Retain GMCA BHF grant on the School Street site and secure GMCA BHF grant monies allocated to the Seedfield site.
· Facilitate the Council’s Brownfield first approach to housing delivery.
· Delivery of much needed homes with affordable tenures and typologies to reflect the modern demands of housing needed in Bury and Radcliffe townships
· Generate capital receipts upon the successful disposal of the sites and allow up to 4% to be retained in the land and property service to cover costs incurred thereby enabling future sites to come forward.
· Reduce revenue cost to the council of holding, maintaining and securing long term cleared sites.
· Generation of additional council tax income and business rates on the Green Street site.
Alternative options considered and rejected:
· Previous CBRE best value reports though useful have been considered previously but in order to ensure the council is achieving the maximum market value, officers recommended red book on all three sites in September 2022 to provide an extra level of assurance and ensure capital receipts reflect current market valuations. Therefore relying on the original CBRE best value reports was discounted in favour of independent red book valuations which provide a thorough approach to valuation.
· The alternative traditional approach would be to return the sites to market but this was discounted as it would incur a delay of approximately 18 months and jeopardise the GMCA Brownfield Housing Funding for both School Street and Seedfields. Furthermore, all three sites are on the Accelerated Land Disposal Programme (ALDP) approved by Cabinet in November 2020 with projected capital receipts expected during 2023 and therefore a traditional procurement exercise could not accommodate the ALDP objectives and incur further cost so was rejected.
· The approved off market solution mitigates the risk of 1) repaying the grant on School St (£882k) and 2) GMCA reallocating funding assigned to Seedfield’s (£995k) to another district or returned to government, incurring reputational damage.
· For these reasons alternative options, including the option to return the sites to open market or rely on CBRE best value reports were discounted and the preferred option of validating the offers through red book valuation is recommended.