Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Gambling with Our Future

More from the Advertiser

UTTOXETER needs to hold out for the best deal possible for the Cattle Market site, says the town's Mayor Malcolm Barrett.
However, Uttoxeter’s Labour MP Janet Dean and East Staffordshire Borough Council Labour group leader Julian Mott have slammed the delay, claiming it is a waste of tax payers’ money.
The decision by the borough council to pull out of the deal with developers Taylor Woodrow has sparked strong reactions from Independent Councillor Barrett, who had not officially been told of the set-back until The Advertiser informed him yesterday.
He praised the borough council for refusing to be 'bullied' by Taylor Woodrow, and said all parties now need to work together to find the best solution for Uttoxeter.
He said: "I am aware of a press release from ESBC which basically implies that during the past few months Taylor Woodrow has been trying to move the goal posts.
"Based on this, I can only agree with Councillor Fox’s statement that we should not be bullied into accepting a scheme which was not agreed, especially if this is to the detriment of Uttoxeter.
"I would say that the most important thing that we must do now is to keep up momentum in respect of the regeneration of the old cattle market site.
"We must all work together for the future of our town."
Mrs Dean told The Advertiser: "I said that this was a gamble when the council first announced the purchase of the Cattle Market, and the question now is that is this gamble going to cost the tax payers of East Staffordshire?
"While it is right that the local authority should not bow to pressure from Taylor Woodrow, I am surprised that it should have reached this stage without a legal agreement.
"Also, if the council was aware that the development would not go ahead this week, I am surprised that it did not try to agree the continuation of the Cattle Market."
She said that she hoped the borough council would now ensure that the public’s concerns over parking in the town were addressed in future plans.
Mr Mott said: "Many times we have been assured that the purchase of Uttoxeter Cattle Market would have 'zero impact' on the council tax payers, and were promised several times by Councillor Fox that work would begin on November 1.
"Now the deal has fallen through, the council is already paying interest on the cost of purchase.
"The fact that this deal has fallen through gives the council the opportunity to reconsider its position on lack of affordable housing and the loss of car parking, and come up with plans that meet the aspirations of local people."

Taylor Woodrun

Housebuilder Taylor Woodrow is the subject of rumors of a takeover from rival Persimmon.
Perhaps Taylor Woodrow were trying to make money while they could by pushing a desperate council further and further down the road to selling off Uttoxeter as a bargain basement housing estate.

Profit at Taylor Woodrow falls 18% in six months to June

Housebuilder feels effects of the tougher housing market

Greed of Developers 'surprises' council

From the Uttoxeter Advertiser today

THE redevelopment of Uttoxeter cattle market has been put on hold after council bosses pulled out of a deal with developers at the last minute.
Days before bulldozers were due to move in to begin demolishing the site, East Staffordshire Borough Council has halted the deal over a row with developers Taylor Woodrow.
The move came after the firm changed its original proposals saying it wanted to halve the number of retail units and replace them with more housing
However, the council has pushed ahead with its purchase of the Carter Street site from Bagshaws and says if things cannot be resolved with Taylor Woodrow it will look for another developer.
The redevelopment of this site in the heart of Uttoxeter could now be delayed by as much as six months.
The council said today it was unhappy with the developer for delaying the signing of the legal agreement and making frequent attempts to change the terms on which the company had been selected last year.
The developer refused to guarantee the build quality and finish of the development, despite the council dropping the price of the site by £1million to ensure a high quality.
The last straw was when the company told the council last week it would only sign if the price tag of the site was slashed further.
Councillor Alex Fox, leader of the borough council, said: "The last few months have demonstrated that Taylor Woodrow is not willing to honour the promises made when the company was selected last year.
"We have been very patient with the company but I have decided that enough is enough.
"Even within the last week, Taylor Woodrow again tried to change the terms and we have come to the point where we are not prepared to compromise any further.
"We want Uttoxeter to be right. If it takes another three to six months then so be it. Last time round there were five developers who showed an interest in the site.
"It is actually a much more attractive site than when we signed this deal in that we now have planning permission and own all of it.
"The designs drawn up by Taylor Woodrow originally were excellent but we have been taken down a track where they won’t guarantee these designs at the finish.
“We have got to stand our ground on these things because this is a big project.
“We are not going to just roll over on this multi-million pound deal and be taken to the cleaners.
“My gut feeling is that they will come back to us and if it sticks to the agreement we will be happy to proceed, if it doesn’t we will be happy to look elsewhere.”
The decision to halt the deal received unaminous cross-party support at a cabinet meeting of the council last Friday.
The council has also brought in professional advisors to prepare a report outlining the current options for site.
The report will go before the cabinet at the end of the month when a decision will be taken on whether to stay with Taylor Woodrow or find a new buyer.
East Staffordshire Borough Council’s new chief executive Marie Ainsworth, who had only been in her post for nine hours when the decision was publicly announced, said: “The advice we have had is that there is likely to be significant interest in the scheme.”
She said that although planning permission has been granted for the site, if a new developer was appointed it would be most likely that variations to the scheme would mean new permission would need to be sought.
Councillor Fox added that “every cloud has a silver lining” and that this gave the council an opportunity to review the plans for the site.
He said: “This gives us another opportunity to look at the retail for the site and the type of retail coming in, to review the designs again and see if 12 months on they are exactly what we finally want.”
Taylor Woodrow’s director of strategic development, Jamie Gibbins, said: “Taylor Woodrow remains committed to delivering a high quality mixed-use development on the cattle market site.
“We are still in negotiation and while discussions continue with all interested parties, from prospective retailers to the council, we are not in a position to comment any further.”

Council fail to deliver again - carpetbaggers flee

From the Sentinel Today

GRAHAM TONG12:00 - 02 November 2005
Multi-million pound plans to transform Uttoxeter town centre have suffered a setback after talks between proposed developers and council officials broke down. Developer Taylor Woodrow told bosses at East Staffordshire Borough Council it was cutting its offer to buy the cattle market site in the town centre by a 'significant amount' before an agreement was due to be signed.Councillors have now decided unanimously to reject the offer.Taylor Woodrow was chosen a year ago to develop the site to form the main part of a 10-year masterplan for Uttoxeter. This included building 180 houses, a retail development, offices and improvements to town centre parking.A borough council statement says Taylor Woodrow has since delayed signing a contract to confirm the deal and has made 'frequent attempts to change the terms on which the company had been selected'.Talks will be opened with other developers if the firm does not increase its latest offer.Council leader Alex Fox insisted the authority was protecting the town's future interests by rejecting the offer.He said: "Taylor Woodrow was chosen 12 months ago because the designs were the best for Uttoxeter. They captured the ambience of the market town. They put a good mix together. We believed that would take the town forward for the next 100 years. They were supposed to sign a contract in March this year. As time has gone by we've been frustrated - they've always found another reason to delay putting a signature on that contract."First they came to us and said the amount they were paying was fine, but they wanted to spread it over two years."We gave ground on that on the basis that we wanted to make progress. Now we are faced with a problem where Taylor Woodrow want to reduce the price they were paying for the market site."We've told Taylor Woodrow we are not prepared to knock anything off the price. Taylor Woodrow may well want to review its position and talk to us again, which we would be happy to do."Mr Fox added that Taylor Woodrow's plan to halve the number of retail outlets initially proposed in order to develop more housing had also been rejected, and that the firm was no longer guaranteeing the scheme's quality.Councillor Julian Mott, leader of the opposition, said: "The Labour group representatives agreed that these would not represent the best solution for Uttoxeter and we support the council's decision."Taylor Woodrow's director of strategic development, Jamie Gibbins said: "We are still in negotiation and while discussions continue with all interested parties we are not in a position to comment any further."