Wednesday, November 02, 2005

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.”

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