Author Topic: Swindon's regeneration and the credit crunch  (Read 27507 times)

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Offline Phil Young

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Re: Swindon's regeneration and the credit crunch
« Reply #20 on: May 12, 2008, 03:28:30 PM »
Hi Phil,

Thanks very much for coming on here to offer your views.  Whilst I think the issue of rates being paid on empty properties is at the root of why Swindon may start to look like Bosnia in a few months, I, like Tobes has indicated, also sense the feeling that things can easily go wrong and we can be left in the lurch.

I'm not doubting your word or the good intentions of many interested parties, but events in the macro environment may take us in a direction we don't want to go in or even prevent us from going in a direction we do wnat to go in.

I think the sooner we start to see detailed plans go before planning, the more comfortable I will be that we're not going to reside in a town full of 'prime real estate' with no developers on the horizon. 

You mentioned that things aren't progressing as quickly as we'd like.  Are there any dates that you can share with us?  i.e. are there any planning applications being submitted at the moment or in the near future?    I think we'd all like to see plans move from the speculative to the detailed. 

Thanks again for your input.

Buster

Hiya,

Apologies for the delay in responding - I think I gave warning that I was away for a few days so i wasn't ignoring you - honest guv!  Going to try and answer a number of questions in one post here so bear with me.

The actual key thing (rather than detailed planning) is the signing of the development agreements, as these will then be the trigger to the next stages - including CPO, detailed planning, etc.

Dates to share with you?  No.  Not being obstructive but I have seen (and been on the receiving end!) of slippage on dates too many times so rather than build expectations, I'd rather just give you a commitment that I am working my nuts off, as are a number of SBC officers, to make this happen ASAP.  More importantly, this would also fall under a commercially sensitive banner.  We are working hard to get the best deal for Swindon, and it wouldn't do to be tipping our hand to those we are negotiating with over when we need to have deals agreed (although I am sure our development partners would never us this info against us)! Once the deals are signed, there may be a couple of procedural hurdles to clear such as Cabinet approvals, etc before these happen but these will be expedited as needs be. 

Re:  open spaces and Bosnia - true there is a risk here but the biggest learning curve I have had is that regeneration takes courage as much as anything else, and you have to hold steady to your line and your vision (vision? what vision? I hear some cry.....cynics!   ;D).

Quote
who actually owns and is responsible for certain key sites for redevelopment (ie Swindon College, old police station, tented market, Davis House)

Swindon College - Owned by Ashridge Land/Parkfield Developments as part of the Regents Circus develpment.  Current status I believe is that asbestos was being stripped out internally hence the lack of apparent activity, and that there was a clarification required on s106.

Police Station - off the top of my head, not sure exactly who technically owns the land here but it is held within the partnership of SBC, SWRDA (South West Regional Development Agency) and EP (English Partnerships) for the Union Square development - I think that SBC actually technically holds the land ownership for Union Square although all the land has been bought/contirbuted by all three partners - roughly a third each give or take 3% either way between the parties.  The same is true with Davis House I believe.

Tented market - owned by SBC, long lease held by leaseholder.  Can I just say that the decision to close the tented market was in no way taken by SBC, this was purely a decision taken by the leaseholder.  The same with the closing of the Mecca bingo hall.  This was purely a commercial decision taken by Mecca themselves.

Quote
Furthermore the plain  boardings surrounding these sites do little too inspire confidence of knowing what is happening wouldn't take much to copy how they have boarded up the locarno with some kind of artists impression.

Point taken on this.  I thought we had done that in some areas - the Central Library springs to mind but I'd have to check.

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Some of the parts that have been demolished are, in the grand plan, the last that will be redeveloped, the old police station for example. As these sites would, even without the economic problems, be vacant for several years, you'd think something better could be done with them than just put hoardings round them. Just grassing them over to give a bit of green space for a while would be a big improvement.

Couldn't agree more Komadori.  I have actually already kicked off a conversation to see if this can happen - either used to add additional parking to make it easier for people to get in to the Town, particularly during the construction phases when access may be more challenging and we need to do all we can to support the traders, or as green spaces for the interim.

Happy to answer any follow-ups and will log back soon to check.  Need to shoot now, work calls!

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Offline concerned_of_Old_Town

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Re: Swindon's regeneration and the credit crunch
« Reply #21 on: May 12, 2008, 04:58:04 PM »
Thanks for the update Keith and e-mail.   It would be nice if New Swindon Company be passing on this information via it's rather bland web site or elsewhere such as the boardings talking of which...

..yes library has some text and pictures on the boarding but none of the other sites (old police station, Davis House) have any description bar rather bland 'advert' for new swindon company web site which seems to raise more questions then it answers!!








Offline Tobes

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Re: Swindon's regeneration and the credit crunch
« Reply #22 on: May 12, 2008, 10:55:31 PM »
Wow - what a breath of fresh air! Thanks for the update Phil  O0
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Offline komadori

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Re: Swindon's regeneration and the credit crunch
« Reply #23 on: May 12, 2008, 11:20:00 PM »
Wow - what a breath of fresh air! Thanks for the update Phil  O0

I'll second that. 'Tis very nice to have some straight answers.
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Offline Provocateur

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Regeneration: Terminated?
« Reply #24 on: May 14, 2008, 03:08:55 PM »
I had a little chat with an old builder friend of mine. He told me clearly and with utter certainty that as things stand, the trade is rapidly winding down, cutting its losses and preparing to go into hibernation. He predicted that we're still very much on the downward slope and we won't have reached the bottom of the trough for another 18 months at least.

He is not aware of ANY major new projects being started ANYWHERE - and stated clearly when I described the utopian plans for the town regeneration, that the reality is that they're in all probability, deader than a dodo. In his view, NO DEVELOPER is going to risk the loss on investment that gambling on a major project in the current climate would mean. He stated quite clearly that we should prepare to see the demolition sites remain hoarded for around three years as a minimum. The only activity we would reasonably expect to see in the interim would be the continuing demolition of existing empty buildings to avoid the business rate issue.

It appears that, once again, vaulting ambition has o'erleaped itself. We now have a town centre which looks like a suburb of Beirut - AND ITS NOT GOING TO GET ANY BETTER. Its time the councillors came clean and stopped trying to hide behind the fig-leaf of 'on-going negotiations'. If the developers are dragging their feet, its because they can't make the profit margins work for them and they're stalling for time in the vain hope that the economy rapidly improves. It also indicates (worryingly) the temptation to cuts costs, quality and corners, as well as to demand compromise from the planning departments in order to try and at least see some initial work undertaken. However, based on what I was told, I suspect that the regeneration is moribund. Its over. The regeneration is dead. For the time being,  is it an ex project?

If so, the sooner councillors and developers 'fess up publically, the better for everyone. At least some sort of contingency can be drawn up.

Offline Provocateur

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Re: Swindon's regeneration and the credit crunch
« Reply #25 on: May 14, 2008, 03:28:57 PM »
Quote
Commercial development activity at five-year low
13 May, 2008

By Dan Stewart

Savills' index falls to lowest level since data was first collected in March 2003

Commercial development activity has fallen to a five-year low, according to a new survey by Savills.

The survey’s index of commercial development activity fell to its lowest level since Savills started collecting data in March 2003.

Almost a third of commercial developers reported a fall in overall activity in April, compared with just 12% who registered a rise.

The survey found that respondents were “highly pessimistic” about the three-month outlook for the office development, industrial/warehouse and retail and re sectors. Many said the completion of existing projects would lead to a further fall in activity over the summer.

Mat Oakley, head of commercial research at Savills, said: “The steady stream of bad news relating to the effects of the credit squeeze on the wider economy is clearly impacting on developers’ confidence. Until the debt market eases, and uncertainty about tenant demand relaxes, we expect developers to remain cautious.”


http://www.building.co.uk/story.asp?sectioncode=284&storycode=3113342&c=1


Offline NothingCleverOrFunny

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Re: Swindon's regeneration and the credit crunch
« Reply #26 on: May 14, 2008, 10:26:51 PM »
According to the Regent Place (Granville Street development) website construction will start in March 2009.

Question to Cllr Phil Young - Hypothetically speaking, would you place a bet on construction being under way in March or at all in 2009? Also, can you provide any information to re-assure us that Swindon won't be a vicim of the Credit Crunch and Provocateur's doom mongering wont come true!?

Offline Phil Young

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Re: Swindon's regeneration and the credit crunch
« Reply #27 on: May 19, 2008, 04:48:01 PM »
According to the Regent Place (Granville Street development) website construction will start in March 2009.

Question to Cllr Phil Young - Hypothetically speaking, would you place a bet on construction being under way in March or at all in 2009? Also, can you provide any information to re-assure us that Swindon won't be a vicim of the Credit Crunch and Provocateur's doom mongering wont come true!?

What an excellent challenge!  Yes, I will put my money where my mouth is.  If Regent Place doesn't happen, I will donate £25 to the Mayor's charity.  Will any doubters match that for if, and when, it does happen?  If anyone steps forward, I will do my best to arrange for the Mayor to receive it personally, whichever way it goes - probably before a Full Council meeting, then we can be sure he'll be around the Civic campus?  Believe me, if we reach a point where I have to write a cheque, the fact that Regent Place won't be happening will hurt a lot more than the loss of the money....

You also ask for any information I can give to re-assure we won't be a victim.  I'm not sure what I can say to give that re-assurance.  All I can say is that people are buying in to what we are trying to do with the Town.  There are a number of private-sector led developments taking place (Regent Circus being one, Jury's Inn being another) which I believe is happening because people believe Swindon is going places - we have set a positive agenda and we are trying our damnedest to deliver it for the Town.

I also believe that one of the reasons we are also well-placed to come through the credit crunch is that Swindon has already dropped a long way in terms of its Town Centre over the last 20-odd years and therefore some of the others towns will be more affected with the crunch as they are just catching Swindon up rather than a uniform dropping across the board.  This means that the developers have come on board already with a reasonable expectation of return as Swindon catches up with the rest - that potential will still be there, I believe, during the Crunch and after - we are encouraging our development partners to take a long-term view here which will still realise the required returns.  Swindon has massive potential and for the size of its Town, we should have a Town Centre that is much better and punching its weight - this is the case whether there is  a credit crunch or not, and I believe that the developers we are working with recognise this as well.  This should mean that Swindon will be at the front of the charge of town centre "recoveries" as we will have the regeneration and development agreements in place to drive the Town forward.  Did that make sense?

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Offline concerned_of_Old_Town

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Re: Swindon's regeneration and the credit crunch
« Reply #28 on: May 19, 2008, 05:28:23 PM »
  Will any doubters match that for if, 

Go on will call your bluff and will pledge £25 as from what I have seen of other developments not convinced will  happen when it said!  We need to clarify what we mean by started not just a case of getting boarded up and closed like Swindon College has been for last few years like to see actual cranes and builders on site doing something!

Offline Mart

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Re: Swindon's regeneration and the credit crunch
« Reply #29 on: May 19, 2008, 06:32:03 PM »
To paraphrase then:

'It's such a shithole anyway we can't go wrong'.

As for going places, if I wanted to visit Slough or Reading I would go to them, there is no need to construct them for me on the doorstep, course there's the paradox, by the time we've copied them the 'regenerators' will have moved up the M4 and trashed them, then regenerated them as, I dunno, replicas of Stuttgart or Ulan Bator.

Nice.

I am a tad cynical as you may have detected, but in the interest of all I maintain an open mind, so here's my challenge, and it's not lick your elbow before you fret.

Calculate the percentage of Swindon centre commercial footage demolished in the last 24 months, as an aside calculate the amount provided in the same period.

Then give me a benchmark town that has been through the same process on a similar ratio, and been successfully regenerated (give me a couple of definitions of success), I will accept anything from the last decade.

That means Dresden is out.
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Offline Geoff Reid

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Re: Swindon's regeneration and the credit crunch
« Reply #30 on: May 21, 2008, 12:14:25 PM »
I'm gradually coming to realise that some developments generally understood to be within the scope of SBC's regeneration plans, and therefore influenced by SBC, are actually nothing to do with SBC at all.  The site of the Old College being one such case, although it is clearly marked on all the plans I've seen as being part of the Regents Circus development and openly touted as part of the regeneration...

....although I am reliably informed that SBC could do little else but approve this development, and once it was approved is now unable to comment on it for legal reasons or unwilling to for political ones.

Even Phil said:

Quote
Swindon College - Owned by Ashridge Land/Parkfield Developments as part of the Regents Circus development.

Hmm, but isn't it the case that SBC tried to buy that site but were substantially outbid by Ashridge/Parkfield by a factor of several million pounds?, which leads to a situation where the New Swindon Company has been successfully touting for developers who them seem to have competed with SBC in a land grab, and once the land is theirs they can more or less do what they want with it and the SBC planning committee can do little more than nod it through and hope to receive a section 106 bung at some future point.

If my understanding of this is correct, then the term 'regeneration partners' is really a PR term for 'business as usual' and the majority of the regeneration is little more than the re-commercialising of prime sites around the town centre over which SBC has vanishingly little overall influence or control.....so whose vision is this exactly? 

I've heard Rod Bluh's regeneration speech several times and he always says, or used to say, that "regeneration is about people".  I'm left wondering whether regeneration is more about shareholders than your average Swindonian, and in the grand scheme of things SBC is at the very tail end of the regeneration puppy, holding on tightly trying to give the impression that it's not being wagged.

Anyone care to comment in detail about every piece of town centre regeneration land, who owns it, how much they paid for it, and how much control SBC was able to exercise over each development? 

I won't hold my breath  :)


Anyway.... NCOF asked:


..... would you place a bet on construction being under way in March or at all in 2009?


I'll have a side-bet on whether the New Swindon Company can survive substantially unchanged until Christmas Day 2008.  My £10 to the NSPCC says that it won't.


Offline Phil Young

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Re: Swindon's regeneration and the credit crunch
« Reply #31 on: May 21, 2008, 01:57:34 PM »
Just for the record Geoff, the college site is touted as being part of the Regent Circus regeneration scheme, largely because, ermmm, it is!  The entire Regent Circus scheme is a private-sector led scheme by Ashridge and Parkfield for that entire area.  The Swindon Borough Council-led scheme is Regent PLACE, and that is the one that we have a development partnership with Modus - which is very much an SBC-led vision so it could be that you have the names confused?

Confusing I know when the schemes are so similarly titled but we have never claimed that SBC are the lead partner for this scheme (to my knowledge anyway).  In reality, SBC had already established the name Regent Place and marketed it, produced marketing materials and that kind of gubbins before Ashfield marketed their site as Regent Circus so there was little we could do at that stage without substantial cost of re-branding.  To be honest, the closeness of the names gets me sometimes and I have to pause a second before talking about them to make sure I get the name right!

What I would also say about this development in terms of planning is that there were substantial negotiations between Ashfield and our Planning officers before it was allowed to go through to Planning, and significant changes were made to that scheme to positive effect.

My view on all of this is that the reason that private-sector led schemes are coming forward is because people do realise that Swindon has a lot of untapped potential for the size of the Town, and that it should be doing a LOT better in terms of its Town Centre offering.  And if this means that re-commercialisation of sites is part of the way forward then as long as it is of the right quality of offering, design, sustainability, etc (some of which we do have our hands tied over by Governmental legislation* which is frustrating in the extreme) then it can only be good because other people are spending their money to improve the Town and there is less of an impact on our Capital programme, and resulting impact on Council Tax.

* I actually wrote an article about this for our website a while ago which outlines some of my frustrations and some of the conditions that we have to work within, particularly in terms of planning and national legislation.  If people want i can see if I can dig that out for a new thread?
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Offline Phil Young

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Re: Swindon's regeneration and the credit crunch
« Reply #32 on: May 21, 2008, 02:03:37 PM »
  Will any doubters match that for if, 

Go on will call your bluff and will pledge £25 as from what I have seen of other developments not convinced will  happen when it said!  We need to clarify what we mean by started not just a case of getting boarded up and closed like Swindon College has been for last few years like to see actual cranes and builders on site doing something!

Damn right, demolition and boards going up is not a success story in my book - it can be a significant milestone as long as the next stage follows through and you see buildings go on there place.  So the milestones in the Regent Place/Modus development are:

  • Development Agreement signed by SBC and Modus
  • Detailed design agreed at Planning
  • Compulsory Purchase Orders progressed and land ownership coming under one entity
  • Demolition started
  • Cranes on site to start putting buildings back up in line with the overall scheme***
  • Tabernacle stones put in place!

*** This is where the pledge becomes payable.  In return, if Modus don't sign the Development Agreement and Regent Place doesn't proceed, then I cough up.  Is that agreed?

Edit:  Apologies for the double post!
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Offline Tobes

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Re: Swindon's regeneration and the credit crunch
« Reply #33 on: May 21, 2008, 03:50:31 PM »
Coo - nothing like a little wager...  O0

Phil - I've asked some questions regarding the Regents Place / Old College development over on the ' reaching for the Sky ' thread - can you spare a couple of minutes to go over and share the pearls of your wisdom? Some of us have some very serious concerns abou the impact that the development is going to have...
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Offline concerned_of_Old_Town

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Re: Swindon's regeneration and the credit crunch
« Reply #34 on: May 21, 2008, 06:09:43 PM »
Damn right, demolition and boards going up is not a success story in my book - it can be a significant milestone as long as the next stage follows through and you see buildings go on there place.  So the milestones in the Regent Place/Modus development are:

  • Development Agreement signed by SBC and Modus
  • Detailed design agreed at Planning
  • Compulsory Purchase Orders progressed and land ownership coming under one entity
  • Demolition started
  • Cranes on site to start putting buildings back up in line with the overall scheme***
  • Tabernacle stones put in place!

*** This is where the pledge becomes payable.  In return, if Modus don't sign the Development Agreement and Regent Place doesn't proceed, then I cough up.  Is that agreed?



Terms of the bet seem fair enough.  I have tried to put this as a calender post for 31st March 2009 but not sure have done this right can an administrator check?  Also suggest that if there is any ambiguity nearer the time get the administrators to adjudicate.

PS Can someone post the link to Granville Street devlopment (not the naff new swindon company site)?

Offline Florence

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Re: Swindon's regeneration and the credit crunch
« Reply #35 on: May 21, 2008, 06:31:15 PM »


Terms of the bet seem fair enough.  I have tried to put this as a calender post for 31st March 2009 but not sure have done this right can an administrator check? 

Correctly posted.

  Also suggest that if there is any ambiguity nearer the time get the administrators to adjudicate.


Certainly we will be happy to.

Offline Geoff Reid

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Re: Swindon's regeneration and the credit crunch
« Reply #36 on: May 21, 2008, 08:18:47 PM »

Just for the record Geoff, the college site is touted as being part of the Regent Circus regeneration scheme, largely because, ermmm, it is!  The entire Regent Circus scheme is a private-sector led scheme by Ashridge and Parkfield for that entire area.  The Swindon Borough Council-led scheme is Regent PLACE, and that is the one that we have a development partnership with Modus - which is very much an SBC-led vision so it could be that you have the names confused?



Yep, I am confused.

It's not that I'm opposed to regeneration per-se, (even if I do intensely dislike the terminology it engenders), but I am left bewildered by the many-layered and almost impenetrable fog of vibrant-yet-confusing visions emanating from different sources......and when SBC become the marketeers-in-chief for a multitude of different developments the fog thickens.

A cursory glance at this SBC promoted picture, (on behalf of the New Swindon Company)



Shows both Regents Place and Regents Circus to be part of the 'Promenade' and easily leaves the reader with the assumption that SBC and the New Swindon Company are developing the sites they are promoting, but this isn't the case in the majority of sites is it?......or is it?.


Anyway, I think we're actually in agreement on this last quote and I should thank you for confirming my point about SBC having its hands tied.....

Quote
My view on all of this is that the reason that private-sector led schemes are coming forward is because people do realise that Swindon has a lot of untapped potential for the size of the Town, and that it should be doing a LOT better in terms of its Town Centre offering.  And if this means that re-commercialisation of sites is part of the way forward then as long as it is of the right quality of offering, design, sustainability, etc (some of which we do have our hands tied over by Governmental legislation* which is frustrating in the extreme) then it can only be good because other people are spending their money to improve the Town and there is less of an impact on our Capital programme, and resulting impact on Council Tax.


Offline NothingCleverOrFunny

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Re: Swindon's regeneration and the credit crunch
« Reply #37 on: July 02, 2008, 11:41:59 AM »
Hi All,
About 6 weeks since Cllr Young took up the 'bet' about when construction would start - just wondered if he could give us any update on how that was looking, in accordance with the rules he laid out, i.e, Development Agreement, CPO complete etc.
Also, just for the record - I very much hope the schemes do progress and obviously have no expertise or knowledge about whether they will or won't happen, just after Phil's 'insider info'.
Phil - over to you!

Offline Geoff Reid

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Re: Swindon's regeneration and the credit crunch
« Reply #38 on: July 17, 2008, 02:36:45 PM »


 :coffee:

Offline Phil Young

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Re: Swindon's regeneration and the credit crunch
« Reply #39 on: July 17, 2008, 10:22:03 PM »
Ooops, acknowledge this thread which I did read beofre and completely forgot to come back and answer, plus the other specific reference to me in another thread.  Got parents visiting at the mo - down for daughter's 3rd birthday party at the weekend so time to answer this may be limited this weekend but I'll be back to answer early Monday or so if I don't get a chance beforehand.  Also too tired to answer questions sensibly right now - youngest has decided he doesn't like to sleep and therefore niether do I.   :buck2:
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