Langtree 'simply could not sign up to Section 106 agreement' in economic climate

Langtree Group chief executive John Downes

Langtree Group chief executive John Downes

First published in News Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Photograph of the Author by , T&A Reporter

The chief executive of Langtree Group, John Downes (left), has said that, while commercial realities were a major impediment to the New Victoria Place scheme getting off the ground, there were additional legal complexities that led to the HCA’s decision.

He said: “We had outlined our marketing plan to the HCA to attract new businesses to the city with the prospect of the new offices being delivered. That committed us to several hundred thousand pounds of investment. In this market that was absolutely key to getting the project off the ground. Market conditions would just not permit the building to be delivered without any interest being generated first.

“Unfortunately the issue was that the development agreement that we signed back in 2007 imposed additional obligations on us that, given the current market, were not practical or even available to us to comply with.

“If we had signed the planners’ Section 106 agreement that had been issued to accompany the planning approval we would have been required to demolish the Odeon cinema building within eight months.

“It is totally inconceivable that we could fit the whole cycle of marketing, attracting interest and then awarding a new building contract within the eight-month period which in turn would have meant that we’d be demolishing the building without its redevelopment having been secured. This is very much against what the politicians and people of Bradford told us they wanted to happen.

“More importantly, it would also be in contravention of the Section 106 agreement, which rightly and typically requires that demolition can’t take place until the redevelopment solution had been secured.

So, in essence, we were being asked to sign up to an agreement which we would inevitably have breached, which is neither sensible, commercially viable or what we want to be associated with.

“We asked the HCA to recognise that the right path was to undertake a comprehensive marketing campaign and secure some real interest in the scheme before demolishing the building and that the eight month deadline was no longer appropriate. Our view as developers was that this was the only commercially viable way of getting the site developed in line with our public sector partners’ wishes, which were identified in the original development brief for the site which formed the basis of our appointment.

“We haven’t sought to vary the development agreement. What we asked for was a recognition of the realities of the situation and the facility to allow us to invest in the marketing to help bring occupier interest to Bradford in a way that meant we weren’t in breach of the legal planning agreement and the building would remain in place until such time as all the mechanics of its replacement had been fully put in place. But without the agreement of the HCA it wasn’t possible.”

Mr Downes wished the HCA well in taking the site forward.

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