Our overall focus is to identify and contractually secure land, which has the potential to fulfil future housing needs through residential and mixed-use development, and then promote it through the planning system. The type of land that we are interested in includes large brownfield sites, such as ex-Defence Estates or other public sector land, and greenfield urban extensions.
We have the expertise to assemble land holdings, often having a number of different landowners, in order to accommodate large developments. Our developments range in size from fifty to several thousand homes and often include substantial on- and off-site infrastructure. Where appropriate facilities such as schools, libraries, community buildings, parkland, and highway/public transport improvements may be delivered, which benefit the wider communities in which we work.
Our long-standing commitment to effective community engagement programmes of extensive and targeted public and stakeholder consultation is at the heart of our ongoing success. This will become even more important in the future as the planning system continues to evolve. Listening to and appreciating the needs of communities and councils during these early planning stages enables us to design, and ultimately deliver, developments that have a positive impact on local people. Community engagement generates local understanding and support for our schemes, which helps us when promoting them through the planning system.
We identify the potential risks and opportunities, constraints and impacts presented by every site. We work closely with colleagues in our regional offices and, where appropriate, employ specialist external consultants to assist us. This enables us to judge each site individually, in terms of its physical characteristics and planning status as well as influences on it from the surrounding areas, so that we can produce the most robust planning applications. By robust we mean applications that have been thoroughly researched and are clearly presented for sustainable developments that provide for the needs of the communities in which they are to be built, as well as being practical for us to deliver in both financial and technical terms. Planning is very tightly controlled and we take great care to ensure that our applications are legally tested to ensure they comply with both planning and environmental law.
By adopting an open partnership approach to negotiations and contracts with landowners, we are able to work together and share both the risks and rewards of development. We secure sites in a variety of ways and we are able to find the most suitable way to contract with each different landowner.
Our preferred methods are:
- Conventional freehold purchases (buying the land outright). Often our freehold purchase agreement contracts include uplift arrangements (whereby proportions of any additional revenue from the development are shared with the landowners).
- Option agreements (an arrangement that gives us the opportunity to promote a site through the planning process and, as we have invested time and money to do so, allows us to buy it at a discount from open market value in the future should we be successful).
We are delivering Newcastle Great Park in consortium with another developer. As well as 2,500 new homes the development will include many services and facilities such as a business park, first school, crèche, health club, and extensive landscaping. We secured the 485 hectare site under an Option Agreement and gained consent for the first masterplan in 1999 and a revised version in 2006.
However, we also use the following methods where appropriate:
- Joint venture arrangements (where we partner with one or more parties, which could include the landowner, to develop a site)
- Hybrid agreements (similar to an option agreement only a portion of the site is sold outright to another developer, which identifies the open market value for the site, and the proceeds are shared between us and the landowner).
We work closely with our regional offices to ensure that there is a smooth handover and consistent approach to the progression of every development. Such sites provide us with a reliable and long term supply of development land. As well as carrying out the development of large sites ourselves, we may also choose to sell parcels of land within them to other developers or swap parcels in return for land elsewhere. Such land swaps provide us with additional home sales opportunities in different market areas.