Exciting development agreement for North Cheshire
Much of our work is long term and takes many years to get to fruition. Even the early stages of development can take time to get rolling. In December 2019 we completed a Promotion Agreement, for a client, that has its origins as far back as ten years ago. This isn’t because anyone was particularly slow, but when we started talking to the client it was clear that their property, in north Cheshire, had countless opportunities which had to be dealt with in order.
Led by Oakwood Managing Director Graham Bowcock, we began by looking at a substantial range of farm buildings for conversion to housing, for which a full planning application had to be made. We are delighted that consent was obtained; delays to this consent were due to the client ensuring that the business case was right and subsequently in negotiating a s106 planning agreement with the local authority.
In the meantime, we had identified a further green field development site belonging to the same owner and agreed a promotion agreement for long term housing. This was completed about 4 years ago.
The more recently completed agreement relates to over 90 acres (36.42 hectares) and is currently farmed in hand by the owner. Although the site is not currently zoned for development, we have been mindful of future changes to the local plan and the excellent position of the site, having great motorway access. Although the client would ideally like to see residential development, we have advised that an employment use may be easier to secure in planning terms and there is currently strong demand for large deliverable sites on motorway junctions.
Having obtained a planning review, we approached a number of developers and promoters to ascertain interest. Not surprisingly interest was good; there is a robust demand for large sites in the North West with competition from both land promoters and developers/end users. We advised our client on the differences between an Option Agreement (with a developer) and a Promotion Agreement (with a promoter) and he felt that a promoter would perhaps offer the best chance of success, not least because of the opportunity for a commercial use rather than purely residential. He felt that a promoter may offer more flexibility. He was also keen to deal with a local firm, ideally with previous dealings with the local planning authority. The chosen firm was Ainscough Strategic Land of Wigan, with negotiations led by managing director Rachael Ainscough.
Alongside solicitor Iwan Williams, partner in the Real Estate team at Aaron and Partners in Chester, we worked to progress the Promotion agreement and ensure that our client’s interests were represented. There is much for us to consider, to make sure that the arrangement works for all concerned. The agreement is long term and all parties are aware that potential changes need to be accounted for, such as our client passing away, potential sale of the land, changes in planning policy and general legislation. Our final negotiations were done with the backdrop of the General Election and still with Brexit to be resolved! It sounds easy with hindsight, but the devil is in the detail.