REAL ESTATE – The £12bn (€17.4bn) BP Pension Fund says it hasn’t given up on its bid to build a new town in southern England, despite a regional inspector’s report recommending it be shelved.
The Hertfordshire development – proposed by the fund’s Ropemaker Properties – included 10,000 houses and supporting infrastructure including schools and retail.
But a panel review by the regional East of England Development Agency recommended that central government reject the proposals.
But Ropemaker spokesman Paul Dimoldenburg told IPE it would “be analysing the reasoning behind the decision [and] assessing what measures might be taken” to progress the development on land owned by the pension fund.
Support for Ropemaker’s proposal came from John Reynolds of the East of England Development Agency, which originally submitted the regional strategy that included the proposals.
“The inspectors warned against building houses without infrastructure. Now they’re recommending more houses be built elsewhere with no additional infrastructure. They’ve said no to this development but pushed the housing allocation elsewhere.
“If the government goes with the inspector’s recommendation, we’ll see in 10-15 years whether it’s a bad decision.”
The inspector’s report had urged the government “to recognise the limits of housing growth and to provide the funding for infrastructure necessary to support new housing in the region”.
The government will have several months to digest the inspector’s report before launching another round of public consultation. Reynolds said: “We’ll make representations challenging the report’s assumptions and conclusions. It will be an issue for robust debate. What we say usually carries weight. But will it work? We’ve never had a government listen before.”
The pension fund of the global oil giant was advised by consulting firm Savills. It has £786m in UK property, according to www.pensionfundsonline.com.
It acquired the land as an agricultural real estate investment in 1979. It first mooted development proposals involving 5,000 houses in the early 1990s but local government bodies rejected both these and a subsequent set of proposals for 18,000 houses.
The “Stop Harlow North” campaign claimed the new development would put unacceptable pressure on local utilities and hamper regeneration efforts in nearby Harlow.
Spokesman Nigel Clarke said: “This is the third time in 13 years Ropemaker have been told no. I hope they’ll now work with the community to use it as a green-belt resource.”
He claimed Ropemaker had been in discussions to sell the land to unnamed developers.