In an environment shaped by years of austerity, there is a strong desire among enterprising local authorities to achieve superior financial returns on their investments. With cuts to local authorities reaching 40 per cent since 2010 and housing and community facilities often the first to go, a measure of risk is needed to foster and promote local growth and meet residents’ needs.
There’s a huge role that businesses can play in working with councils to optimise their returns, helping them become more commercially minded and resulting in increasing demand for formalised partnerships between public and private bodies.
This is especially true with large-scale urban renewal. Private developers have a growing responsibility to existing residents to deliver cohesive and meaningful regeneration for the current and future good of their communities, not just delivering units in the highest volumes possible.
Formal partnerships – such as the joint ventures (JVs) which Morgan Sindall Investments Limited (MSIL) is delivering with Slough and Bournemouth borough councils – marry commercial expertise with the local knowledge about what the community needs to thrive. The JV approach in both towns is creating win-win situations for the councils, MSIL, and most importantly for the local communities.
Once a council and a developer understand each other’s perspective and aspirations, they can take on more risk to invest and deliver local and political priorities and create the conditions for a business to thrive. Both MSIL’s current JVs are 50/50 with dedicated Boards and regularly reviewed Partnership Business Plans – enshrining a shared vision, ethos and objectives and providing clear direction and security for the partnership.
For the local authority the advantages are clear – it can draw on its partner’s commercial capacity and expertise, leveraging its supply chain and simultaneously reinvesting its share of the profits back into the community. Using each party’s experience allows for innovative approaches across the whole programme, from management and operations to community engagement.
These are partnerships which unlock delivery. Development can be progressed more efficiently than if a developer was proposing a scheme alone. When both parties have a shared masterplan vision, goals and risks, you get better quality homes, facilities and public spaces. The focus isn’t only on housing but important community infrastructure which fosters culture, learning and wellbeing now and in the future. In September MSIL’s JV in Slough delivered The Curve – a £22 million cultural centre including a library, theatre and performance space, part of Slough’s £35 million leisure strategy, with the ethos ‘more people, more active, more often’. It’s a prime example of what can be delivered when partnerships put people first.
Major development and regeneration takes decades. It’s not easy to maintain a genuine partnership throughout, overcoming everything from political and economic cycles and to funding or staffing changes. For these partnerships to succeed both parties must rely on the openness, honesty and transparency of the other – only then can they guarantee that the places they create will give the best result.