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Chiefs defend 'controversial' regeneration joint ventures

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Chief executives have defended “controversial” joint ventures which see local authorities enter into partnerships with the private sector to build more homes and regenerate an area.

Haringey LBC is in the midst of a legal battle over its partnership with Lendlease but the borough’s deputy chief executive Tracie Evans has urged the sector to persist with the model.

Speaking at a fringe session at the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives & Senior Managers summit in Manchester, Ms Evans said: “Should we lose confidence in joint ventures? No, absolutely not – it’s the only way we’re going to get massive place-making at scale.”

Ms Evans said some people “don’t like the fact we’re getting into bed with the private sector” and told other councils thinking about entering into a joint venture to be “really clear” about what the main reason is for doing so.

“Our vision is we want to build social housing and lots of it, and build social infrastructure with jobs and skills,” she said.

The “legal wrangle” centres on how much Haringey will get out of the deal – the land value is worth about £275m over 20 years - and whether that is “secondary” or “incidental” to the primary purpose.

“We’re saying it’s incidental, they’re saying it’s secondary and it changes the type of company you have,” said Ms Evans who added it could cost the council millions in tax depending on the court’s verdict on that matter.

Ms Evans urged other councils thinking about entering into a joint venture to “make sure you get your consultation sorted” as she admitted: “We didn’t consult at the point at which we should have.”

Eamonn Boylan, chief executive of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, said he was “very much into joint ventures”.

He said: “There are always going to be people who say it is controversial and there will always be people who want to turn it into a political football but the reality is you need them and you just need to make certain they are structured in a good way with the right partners.

“Where JVs have gone wrong they have been well-intentioned but not structured in a way that will deliver the outcomes partners want and that’s something we need to make sure we are transferring learning about so we know what has worked but equally what hasn’t worked.”

Chris Naylor, Barking & Dagenham LBC chief executive, said areas “need a compelling narrative” if they are going to have “political courage” on housing issues.

Mr Boylan agreed and said Greater Manchester is trying to join its housing strategy to other strategies so residents can better understand the bigger picture. He said councils “need to be brave” and articulate “what a future sustainable system looks like”.

Jim Saunders, group business development director at Pinnacle Group, which unsuccessfully bid for the Haringey contract, said joint ventures are “the only way” the country is going to build “more homes, better homes, faster”. However, he said: “It’s absolutely imperative you pick the right partner. The partners you need are people that have a long-term view.”

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