Derelict Lands of Opportunity
Project Case Study

Derelict Lands of Opportunity

Lowestoft Gateway Retail Development Retail £10m

Development management in the far east of England

The sun rises earlier in Lowestoft, the UK’s most easterly town, which is handy when you’ve got a long day ahead.

While the Lowestoft gateway retail development might look superficially similar to edge developments in other towns, the story leading up to its eventual construction is unique. It entailed a journey far more challenging than its scale might suggest, at length delivering a beneficial outcome for the community and the client.

Lying on land formerly used for industrial manufacturing, the site had been dormant nearly ten years when in 2011 TPS secured a commission from leaseholders, Freshwater Group to investigate the possibility of a development project.

Unsticking projects at the planning stage takes a co-operative rather than an adversarial approach

Earlier agencies’ attempts to gain planning approval for change of use had failed, largely because the local authority preference remained for an employment use for the site, in a town where jobs are scarce. Yet the gateway location, on a major road entrance to the town, suggested retail—more so as surrounding land was already occupied by other retail brands. 

TPS Director, Mark Newton, Initially saw this as a single supermarket opportunity, and approached the local authority with a proposal, but was rebuffed owing to the council’s and officers’ vision. 

Never a firm to walk quickly away from a difficult project, TPS instead chose to build relationships with the local authority in the hope of persuading them that retail offered benefits more readily achievable. It implied an immediate end to the eyesore of a derelict site, an enriched retail offer locally, and also the chance of raising the lease value of the site—appealing, as the local authority owned the freehold. 

Supporting the leader of the council and the local councillor representing the ward in which the site lies, TPS was able over time to demonstrate to the planning committee that the community benefits of having the retail development out-weighed the loss of an employment site.  

As projects run it was far from the easiest, and looking at the scale, many a development partner might have wondered if it was worth it. But it is typical of TPS to take a longer term view. Succeeding in a difficult project where prior attempts had failed has a value for corporate reputation and client relationships. It is also a source of experience for the team and a demonstration of its true capabilities.

The successful launch showed the ability of TPS to work proactively with local authorities to best serve the needs of their communities. It also illustrates the team’s perseverance in winning support for a project among a range of stakeholders when everyone has to accept a measure of compromise to keep the project alive.

Maintaining a balanced outlook is essential for all parties in the negotiation, especially where the CIL is concerned

By now the proposal had altered to be a mixed retail development lead by popular national brands ALDI, and The Range. But what seemed to be the end of the planning phase was soon revealed to be only the end of the beginning. 

Under the community infrastructure levy, the local authority set a charge per square metre that amounted to an improbable 10% of the total development budget. From even the most optimistic outlook such a charge was certain to make the development uneconomic. 

While local authorities have the power to set the charge according to government published guidelines, if it is not in balance with the proposed development, an appeal is possible. In what amounted to a test case, TPS sought advice and managed an appeal to the valuation office that successfully had the initial levy charge reduced to a far more realistic figure. 

The move was pivotal in realising the development plan, and led to the final lease renegotiation, which TPS also handled on behalf of Freshwater.

Following the conclusion of the planning phase, TPS took on the project management of the development seeing it through design, procurement, demolition, remediation and eventual construction. The site was finally opened in March 2019, fully let but for one unit

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