Cllr Simon Dudley
The search for a development partner to work with the Royal Borough on the regeneration of Maidenhead town centre is being launched at a special event in London today (Thursday).
The council is hosting a launch briefing for potential partners to showcase opportunities to develop sites in York Road, West Street, Reform Road and Saint Cloud Way.
The council-owned sites cover more than 6.3 hectares, representing the biggest release of public land in the borough for several years and have been earmarked for mixed-used development.
This includes more than 1,000 new homes together with offices, a cultural quarter, community facilities, shops, restaurants and entertainment provision, with the aging Magnet replaced by a new leisure centre at Braywick Park.
The council says high land values and strong rents from the project are expected to generate income to invest in improving services and facilities for residents.
Council leader Simon Dudley said: “We’re launching a process to have a joint venture partner by May of next year, initially focused on four sites in Maidenhead which the council solely or significantly owns.
“This joint venture is going to absolutely be one of the primary vehicles for us to take forward the regeneration of the town centre, which is enormously complex and will exceed our capacity and capability to do it on our own.
“We recognise you’ve got to bring in that third party expertise. We hope it will be very attractive to the market. We think Maidenhead is an extremely attractive place with Crossrail coming in here in 2019.
“It’s a really exciting opportunity. This will all be governed by legal arrangements between ourselves and the joint venture partner. We’ll be injecting our land and will be able, through those contractual arrangements, to influence the nature of what is being developed on these sites, to create the town we want to. It gives us an opportunity to create a town for everyone.”
So, how does a developer make their money but the borough get what it wants as well?
Cllr Dudley explained: “When you look at the value of any particular site you’ll look at what development you could put on it so you would ultimately factor in the cost of building something with the sort of profit a developer wants out of it. That would drive back a residual land value.
“We would like, where we can in a 50/50 joint venture, to also get an element of the profit from developing these sites. What it will mean is by us putting our land holdings into a joint venture, we will receive a mix of cash and we can also take residential units back as well.”
The homes would be transferred into the RBWM Property Company Ltd, the council's trading company.
“The council can then decide the sorts of tenancy rights there are in respect of that property. There’s no point in taking residential units back and then just selling them, because we might as well take cash in the first place,” said Cllr Dudley.
Options could include private rented homes, key worker housing and social housing.
“We all recognise how difficult it is for some people to get in the property market and we’re very clear we want to build a Royal Borough for everyone. So we’ll also look at true social housing, and also shared ownership schemes, where people can gradually acquire more of their home over time.”
He continued: “I’m very clear we’re not going to be able to buck the market here in Maidenhead. You’re going to have Crossrail here so we’re not going to be able to suppress the strong upward trend for house prices.
“But what we can do through us directly intervening in the market with our own land, is to direct property at people.
“So if you’ve been born here in the Royal Borough we want you to stay here. We want to try and give you that opportunity.”
Sale of the council owned-sites will inevitably lead to accusations of 'selling off the family silver'. But Cllr Dudley said the borough was simply realising the value of its land holdings.
He said: “The gold is in the ground. We’re digging up the gold and then we’re turning it into gold bars for the benefit of residents. So we’re mining our gold as opposed to giving away the silver.”
Redevelopment of the St Cloud Way site will allow the relocation of the 40-year-old Magnet and construction of more than 500 homes.
Cllr Dudley said: “Its ongoing maintenance costs are going to be prohibitively high, so we are going to go through the necessary consultation with residents, about potentially moving it. One site we’re looking at, our preferred site but subject to consultation, would be to Braywick Park.”
The council has negotiated the surrender of the lease on the 13-acre driving range and the crazy golf site by September and it could provide a potential site.
“If the replacement were to move to Braywick Park, the old Magnet would not close down until the new one’s doors opened. It will definitely be an upgrade on what we’ve got at the moment. Something which will cost in the region of £30million,” said Cllr Dudley.
“The cost of that would be more than met from the value of that one development site. That means we get a fantastic new leisure centre and the homes as part of the process.
“Timing wise we are looking to have a new leisure centre by the first or second quarter of 2019. It’s purely coincidental it’s with the next borough elections. What we’ve said is 'look let’s get on with this as quickly as possible'.”
Spare capacity on the site could also provide a home for a relocated Phoenix Gym club, said Cllr Dudley.
There are no plans to move Braywick Nurseries or to link the new leisure centre plans with SportsAble's ambitions to develop its own facilities.
Plans for the York Road area still include a civic quarter with a £3m expansion of the Desborough Suite, and a bigger heritage centre.
The development of the four sites is separate from plans for the Landing on the town centre triangle, which received outline permission last year.
Despite the complexity of the Landing, Cllr Dudley said he was still confident the site would be developed.
“We will work with London Aberdeen Group to bring their scheme to fruition,” he said.
“There was a time when Maidenhead regeneration was the Broadway. Now it’s everything else happening around it, but we definitely want to make sure that comes forward and we’ll be as helpful as we can be there.
“My main concern would be just the quantum of office space there is in there. Numerous commercial property funds have suspended redemptions from them recently. That whole sector is under some stress. But there are big blue chip companies basing themselves in Maidenhead, which will be fantastic. And we’re going to have the prime minister here so that’s going to float a lot of boats.
“It’s not without its challenges but we’re there to help and that’s what we’ll do. I’m confident something really material will happen quite soon there.
“At the same time you’ve got the waterways, I’m sure in due course we’ll be putting some more money into that to help it come to fruition. But it’s going to be complex with a lot of disruption as well for the town, so we shouldn’t underestimate that.”
The full breadth of the development market is expected at the joint venture launch, from big housebuilders to local developers for what the council says is a 'once in a generation level of investment' for the town.
Cllr Dudley said: “With that comes huge responsibility to get this right. That’s one of the important things with the joint venture.
“If you bring in the right partner you will be able to work with their expertise. What you don’t want is councillors treating Maidenhead like a large Lego kit. You want experts who know exactly how to create a wonderful place to live.
“What we’re not going to do is create a town which is just for international property developers and millionaires.
“We’re incredibly fortunate here that we do have all of this land which is going to mean we are in a very fortuitous position moving forward.
“All of it becomes a very virtuous circle and it will drive up property prices because it will be such a nice place to live. That’s why we need to help young people and key workers to be on the property ladder, but do that in a fair way as well.”
The council says a development partner will be appointed by May next year, followed by public consultation before any work begins on the four sites, expected to be in 2018.
1. York Road
2. West Street
3. St Cloud Way
4. Reform Road
Top Ten Articles
The Met Office has issued a yellow alert for Windsor and Maidenhead, Slough and Wokingham, warning that rain moving eastwards across the south of the country may turn to snow in some places.