SKDC sets out how it will improve Grantham and across district
Major projects are on the cards across South Kesteven.
And to help make them happen, the district council is seeking a private sector partner to create a joint-venture company.
Potential schemes range from town centre regeneration projects in Grantham to business parks and leisure facilities in Stamford and the Deepings.
Moves to create the partnership company- to be known as DeliverSK- will be determined by a specially-called meeting of Growth Overview and Scrutiny Committee.
A report for the Wednesday meeting says such an investment partnership will streamline the development process and help attract private sector funding for major projects.
DeliverSK would be run by a management board, half coming from the council and half from the private sector ‘partner,’ which has yet to be found.
Wednesday’s meeting also seeks an initial investment of up to £600,000. This would comprise up to £100,000 set-up costs and up to £500,000 working capital. However, no working capital or assets would be transferred until a joint-venture partner is in place.
SKDC plans to seek interest from prospective partners in October, with it choosing one in December and having staff of the new company in place by February 2019.
DeliverySK would then work with InvestSK and other major landowners to review assets and start putting forward project business cases in the first quarter of 2019 and preparing the first planning applications from April onwards.
The report said: “Among the first projects under consideration are a significant, strategic mixed-use development scheme to the south of the district and a mixed-use scheme close to the centre of Grantham.
“Early on, DeliverSK will also develop a leisure provision investment plan to outline the programme to provide new, refurbished and enhanced leisure facilities across the district
“Alongside this, DeliverSK will look at land and property assets in the area to begin developing a wider programme of project activity, with the potential to consider partnership working with some of the larger landowners and potential acquisition opportunities.”
The report says DeliverSK follows the examples of Peterborough City and other councils, where the same approach has been tried successfully, using a six-stage process, with council and board approval needed along the way.
Already SKDC has its own companies to help the district council achieve its economic goals, which last October saw the announcement of a £40 million programme by 2020 to boost the district economy by some £400 million.
At the same time SKDC announced the creation of InvestSK as a development agency, which later became a council-owned company,to help attract businesses to the area and support existing ones.
Early last year, SKDC also established Gravitas, a wholly-owned company that specialises in using pockets of council-owned land to deliver small-scalehousing developments that are suitable for local builders and ‘self-builders’.
The report says councils in general have little track record in delivering major projects due to a lack of political will or their own lack of commercial expertise, often falling at the last hurdle, leaving council-owned land undeveloped.
As a result, major schemes which are delivered privately, tend to be housing only, lacking other facilities.
The report added: “South Kesteven needs more housing, particularly social and affordable homes. SKDC can play an active part in delivering housing developments. However, in addition, SKDC also wants to create more office and employment space, provide new leisure facilities and refurbish existing ones, deliver mixed use regeneration schemes, secure institutional investment and so on.
“The proposed investment partnership, DeliverSK represents an agile opportunity to SKDC to work with an experienced private sector partner on a more agile, commercial basis while retaining council approval and scrutiny for decisions involving council owned land or investments by
For Council leader Matthew Lee, the creation of DeliverySK is the next stage of the economic ambitions for South Kesteven he announced last October.
He told the Journal: “This is the delivery vehicle. This is how we are going to achieve houses, affordable homes, leisure centres, offices. This is the model I’m proposing to deliver them. Its been delivered by other councils. In Peterborough, I was involved in the early days of setting one up.”
Fletton Quays in Peterborough, a mix of riverside apartments, is seen as an example of the kind of development such a vehicle will bring.
Cambridge and other councils created similar ventures, which Coun Lee sees as the way councils are going, needing to attract private money and allowing councils to behave more commercially.
In addition to DeliverSK, separate companies will also be created for each project. And if council land was needed, then “all the normal council procedures and scrutiny will kick in.”
He continued: “We are looking at a scheme in the south of the district and a scheme in Grantham.”
Coun Lee declined to say what they were, but he hoped to announce them at the next ‘Economic Summit’ in October.
“What we are doing is trying to stimulate growth and get business into the district. We know we are losing businesses particularly in Stamford and the Deepings because there isn’t suitable accomodation for them.
“We have to stem that tide by making sure there’s appropriate building here and attract business into the district. This is the role of DeliverSK. It and InvestSK will work together but they have very different functions.”
InvestSK, he continued, was about stimulating economic growth by attracting businesses to the district and helping those already here expand. InvestSK also had a wider remit, with arts and education as a focus as they were part of what made a place desirable to live in.
But it would be DeliverSK that would deliver the physical infrastructure on the ground, such as housing, offices or leisure centres, “or more likely, all three on one site.”
The private sector typically just built the houses, but SKDC wanted them of a better quality, with employment sites and leisure facilities.
Therefore, SKDC sought some kind of financial institution who shared these council aims and values, was not simply interested in just profit and aimed for the longer term.
Coun Lee said he and SKDC looked at alternatives to its partnership model, but if private firms developed the projects, the council would lose control and just get houses. The council also lacked the money to do major things itself.
“We don’t have the level of resources to regenerate Grantham and do other schemes. We don’t have the money. We need to use the private sector money carefully and our money carefully.”
He assured opposition councillors the new company would be accountable but challenged them to come up with their own alternative.
“The council will scrutinise the decisions about creating the company. Every time there is the option for the council investing in one of these (smaller) companies (behind an individual project), proper scrutiny will be undertaken.
“I want to make sure we have the right mix of housing in the district, the right opportunities. If they have an alternative way of delivering that, I am willing to listen.If they don’t agree, what would be nice is for them to come up with their own way. I’m not precious.If someone can come up with a better way of doing it, I’m more than happy to use their way.”
He added: “Councils can no longer just sit there and be a regulator or facilitator. Councils have to be very different to what they were 10-15 years ago. We need to be actively involved in the regeneration of our towns of our district. We just can’t leave that to the private sector.
We want the best of both worlds, have the private sector and the council working hand-in-hand.”
More by this authorDarren Greenwood