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Locating development opportunities through partnership

Property development plays a vital role in urban regeneration and the right location will attract the right partners. An example on the South Coast proves the point, according to Duncan Johnston, Development Director of the Bournemouth Development Company (BDC), Morgan Sindall Investments’ regeneration partnership.

Duncan Johnston, Development Director of BDC

Builders, investors and local councils are all involved in increasing the supply of housing, creating jobs and breathing new economic life into local communities. However, due to the challenging financial landscape of recent years, it has often been difficult to source funding and move projects forward.

Local authorities, says Johnston, may have a strategic vision, but lack the ability to raise sufficient finance, while private sector developers can be put off by falling market values and hard-to-predict returns.

Leyton Mount regeration site, Bournemouth

In Bournemouth, whatever the merits of individual plans, much of the town centre development proposed or under way over the past decade or so has been seen as piecemeal. This was a position that Bournemouth Borough Council wanted to move away from under its 20-year Town Centre Master Vision. Working alone, the Council knew that it would lack the funds and specialist expertise to be able to deliver widespread changes in a more holistic, coordinated way for the benefit of residents, visitors and businesses.

Following an EU procurement process, BDC was formed as a 50/50 partnership between the Council and Morgan Sindall Investments. The aim is to redevelop 17 council-owned surface car parks and bring forward new homes, offices, shops, visitor attractions and other infrastructure.

Cgi of Leyton Mount regeneration site, Bournemouth

Johnston says: "The sites were identified as part of a comprehensive spatial plan, which considered issues such as employment, transport, tourism, the education sector and public realm improvements."

The Council’s main investment is land, with the bulk of capital financing arranged through Morgan Sindall Investments. For example, a £5 million loan was secured from the Get Britain Building investment fund to support a mixed use of development that includes 64 residential apartments. The Council will also receive a grant for this scheme under the New Homes Bonus for increasing the number of new-build homes.

Another key benefit of local regeneration is employment. Forty-two contracting companies were engaged on the first construction sites to come on stream in 2013. The financial value of the contracts let totalled £17.5 million. Employment is being provided for trades such as mechanical and electrical work, plastering, glazing, flooring, welding, brickwork and lift installation.

Aside from tangible economic and employment benefits, BDC supports the Council’s goal of enhancing the look and feel of the town centre environment. As a result, ‘public realm’ improvements are part and parcel of regeneration activity. They include better lighting, landscaping and signage, more imaginative use of green spaces and improved links between Bournemouth’s seafront and gardens and its revitalised shopping and business districts.

Johnston adds: "BDC is a prime example of a successful public-private partnership. As it progresses, profits from successive developments will enable fresh investment in new sites and infrastructure, so regenerating Bournemouth in a sustainable way. The strategy starts with research and identification of viable sites. Location data is essential at this point to help us visualise and understand spatial constraints. Thereafter, each proposal undergoes widespread public consultation ahead of the public planning process, financing and build. This is a major regeneration project that, although long-term, is already delivering investment value."

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