Kitewood, the creators of Altira Tumbleweed Park, want to recycle their unused “Blacksole Bridge commitment” as a lever for winning another planning consent, thus reducing their average costs to half-an-imaginary-bridge per consent.
The photo accompanying the Gazette article shows the outline of the area covered by the planning consent Kitewood want. It’s huge.
The tilted angle gives a foreshortened view, which doesn’t really do credit to Kitewood’s territorial ambitions.
In refusing to build the new bridge at Blacksole, Kitewood are entirely and exactly within the letter of their contract with CCC. The bridge-building is triggered by a certain level of occupancy, and to my mind CCC were completely daft to allow this clause anywhere near the contract. (Apart from anything else, it’s open to abuse. In some Mediterranean countries, construction tax is levied only when the building is complete: result – a lot of 98% complete, but fully functional, buildings.) The new bridge was (rightly) viewed as a necessity to ensure our safety in the face of increased traffic. The level of traffic started increasing from Day One of Altira’s development, so it would have made sense to build the new bridge right at the beginning.
What boggles me (and I only learned it from this Gazette article) is that Kitewood have already trousered a £1.3m up-front subsidy! Despite their best efforts, they’ve not met their occupancy targets, and that presumably hurts them in the wallet. But they’re under no contractual obligation whatsoever to build the bridge. Yet. They’ve got their (our?) £1.3m, and nobody has mentioned giving it back. They’re laughing! They must have thought our negotiators were idiots. I do.
And now Kitewood are offering to enter into a legally binding agreement (just as they already have for the Altira development) committing them to building a new bridge IF (and only if) they are given planning consent for a very large development. In Kitewood’s shoes, I would be falling over myself to strike deals with Canterbury – win a million quid and do sweet F.A. is a great start! It’s very easy to paint Kitewood as being the bad guys in this long and sorry tale, but they are actually just playing by the rules that CCC set and signed up to.
I’m afraid the villains of the piece appear to be those officers/members in CCC who drew up, and signed off, the dismally flawed S106 agreement. They really screwed up.
Safety fears over delay for planned pedestrian bridge
Developers have been accused of “holding a gun” to the heads of city councillors in a row about a pedestrian footbridge in Broomfield. At a special meeting on 7th July, Kitewood – which owns the Altira Business Park in Margate Road – said it would build a new bridge over the nearby railway crossing within a year, but only if it was given consent for a 700-home development in Hillborough. Kitewood director Michael Dolan called for councillors and planning officers to support the proposal, describing it as a “trade-off”.
The unofficial meeting, which dismissed the idea of traffic lights on the current Blacksole Bridge, was called by Bay councillor Peter Vickery-Jones following years of concerns over safety. Due to a condition agreed by the city council, Kitewood – which negotiated £l.3 million off the purchase of the land to pay for the bridge – is not obliged to build it until 17,000 square metres of the site is occupied. Mr Dolan told the meeting this could take as long as four or five years. He said:
“There is not the money in the pot to build the bridge now but it’s not for want of trying. There has to be the generation of wealth first. And for that there will need to be planning consent for further developments. I can promise we will enter into a legally bound commitment to press forward with this bridge if we receive support for the housing scheme at Hillborough. The uplift in the value of the land will provide funds to build a new bridge within a year. And you can have any lawyers you want draft that commitment up and we will sign it.”
Bay MP Roger Gale slammed the situation, saying:
“A harsh man would say Altira have already had their money as £1.3 million was knocked off the asking price for the land. The reality is someone at the city council put this ludicrous condition into the plans which says you will have your bridge when 17,000 square metres is occupied. But that could be in four to five years, in which time one or two people could be killed. And if that happens the county council, city council and, most importantly the developers should be held accountable. You could say it looks like they’re holding a gun to our heads. They are saying ‘we will give you our undertaking to build the bridge if we get consent’ – and there’s the gun.”
Kitewood confirmed it is committed to building the bridge when the 17,000 square metre limit is passed. City councillor Peter Vickery-Jones said he was disappointed with the Kitewood proposal, but understood the reasons for it:
“There has to be an opportunity for the developers, and I’m all for getting the situation resolved as early as possible. I would hate to think something would happen on that bridge and I hadn’t done my utmost to address the problems. But this proposal is undeliverable. Every planning application has to be judged on its own merit. It’s a shame we’ve found ourselves in somewhat of a hostage situation.”
HB Gazette 8th July 2010