Releasing council-owned land for residential development (Wyre Borough Council)

Exploring options, minimising risk and delivering good value for residents.


At a glance

What went in

Priority area addressed: Housing supply 

Budget: c£50,000 of which £25,000 was HAP funded. 

Other resource needed: Staff time and expertise, consultants to help de-risk the site and procure various surveys and provide development options. 

Time taken to achieve outcomes: Project commenced in March 2020 just prior to COVID-19 pandemic and the site went to the market in November 2021. Significant delays were experienced owing to the emergency situation. 

What came out

Deliverables: a site for residential development that was significantly de-risked enabling a more successful marketing period which should lead to a higher value disposal outcome. 

Difference made/indication of success: High number of bids on the site and level of unconditional offers. 

Statistics: 15 bids received from local and national developers. 

 

Executive summary

The successful bid for Housing Advisers Programme funding allowed us to kick-start the whole disposal process for the only site owned by Wyre Borough Council which was suitable for housing development. This included using Local Partnerships to help us in determining which option was the best for Wyre (outright disposal for a capital receipt) and then moving on to de-risking the site via the procurement of various surveys and commissioning development options for the site to improve the information pack when we went to market.  

Challenge and context

Wyre needs a better variety and choice of housing in terms of type and tenure and there is a pressing need for affordable housing across most of the borough.  

The site considered by this project is the only one of substantial size currently owned by the council that is suitable for housing development and as such we didn’t have the luxury of ‘learning on the go’. The development needed to achieve the best value for the council first time. It is difficult for small district councils with no housing stock to get financial support for professional expertise and HAP funding represented one of the few opportunities available to the council to try and kick-start the scheme and help provide much needed housing in the borough. 

What we did

The Housing Advisers Programme funding enabled the council to access professional advice and expertise to help take the site forward and secure its release for housing development in the near future. Expertise in adding value and exploring the potential for the site was the key ambition for the project and a multi-disciplinary project team was established at the council to help take this forward. 

Once we determined that an outright disposal for a capital receipt was our best option, we commissioned consultants to help us de-risk the site as much as possible prior to taking it to the market in order to secure a higher return. Various surveys were procured to investigate the site and a number of development options were produced to help prospective bidders visualise solutions to the sloping topography of the site. 

Following this we procured Land Agents to take the site to the market on our behalf and this process concluded in December 2021. 

The difference we made

The site went to the market in November 2021 and we have moved into a period of exclusivity prior to disposal with the preferred bidder. The funding helped to kick-start the project, without which it would have been delayed further which may have meant we did not receive the number and level of bids we did. The actual capital receipt is not yet known although based on the highest bids received it will achieve value for money. 

What next?

Further site investigations will now be undertaken by the highest bidder and we are seeking final approval to dispose of the site. 

Lessons learned

Seeking the right expertise is essential to getting the best result and it is sometimes necessary to procure this externally, especially for small district councils where capacity in-house is limited. Having a multi-disciplinary team in-house to support the process is key, bringing together finance, planning, legal, engineering, estates and other skills to ensure the best outcome for residents.

Contact

Clare James, Corporate Director Resources (and S.151 Officer), Wyre Borough Council, clare.james@wyre.gov.uk