Memorandum by Capital and Provident Regeneration
1.1 This written evidence is submitted on
behalf of Capital & Provident Regeneration Ltd.
1.2 We are a property development company
specialising in regeneration in the inner city, particularly London.
Our approach is to work in a highly collaborative way with local
public agencies. Our aim is to work on their agendas, using outstanding
architects to achieve results.
1.3 Because, much of the public sectors
property holdings date from a time when local authorities had
more powers, we have found ourselves working on a number of historic
or listed buildings. Consequently we have direct experience of
regeneration agencies, conservation officers and English Heritage.
1.4 Our proposals are:
Local authorities should be encouraged
to carry out disposals in a more managed and structured way if
they are to achieve real regeneration outcomes through the use
of their historic buildings.
Local conservation officers should
be accountable to English Heritage.
There should be a mechanism for reviewing
use classes of both buildings and areas, which is outside the
VAT should not be charged on refurbishment.
In return for an open book agreement
on behalf of the developer, there should be a process a collaborative
working for regeneration schemes.
2.1 Capital and Provident Regeneration is
a property development company specialising in working in the
inner city in partnership with the public sector on regeneration
schemes. It is part of a larger property group, Capital and Provident.
Capital and Provident has been in existence as a development and
investment Company for around 35 years; and Capital and Provident
Regeneration was created on the 1st January 2000 to specialise
in mix use schemes with the public sector. Sylvie Pierce who was
Chief Executives of the London Borough of Tower Hamlets was recruited
to run the new company.
2.2 Capital and Provident Regeneration has
purchased a number of buildings, which are either listed, or of
interest to English Heritage. The very first scheme, in Hoxton
Square, Shoreditch, London, was the conversion and re-development
of a listed grade 2 Victorian School into a community gym, a training
restaurant, starter business units and residential units. The
scheme will be completed in February 2004, English Heritage have
taken an enthusiastic interest and commended the scheme as an
excellent example of regeneration involving the transformation
of a neglected listed building into facilities that have real
benefit to the local community. This building would have been
ripe for conversion to private apartments, but through a partnership
between Capital & Provident Regeneration and the local New
Deal Trust, the building has been redeveloped to a development
brief lead primarily by the New Deal Trust.
2.3 The company is also working on the conversion
of a Victorian school to 69 residential units, including 19 key
worker, a 2-storey GP's surgery, with 2-storeys of complimentary
medicine facilities above which are to be managed by Shoreditch
New Deal Trust. The building has been given the name Shoreditch
Spa! In addition we are working on the conversion of the Annie
McCall Hospital in Stockwell into artist studios, a new public
park, community building and housing. The company has also formed
a joint venture with the William Pears Group to bid for NHS Lift
schemes. We are now the preferred partner for two London Lifts.
One is in Lambeth, Lewisham Southwark and the
other is in Ealing, Hammersmith and Fulham, Hounslow. This is
being done under a new company banner, Building Better Health.
2.4 It is this experience of working on
a range of historic buildings, and being involved in regeneration
partnerships of various kinds, that has led us to submit evidence
to this select committee.
2.5 In addition to its success in working
with English Heritage on a range of schemes, the company was recently
voted client number 28 in the RIBA's list of top clients. The
company has a strong set of values which includes a commitment
to bringing beautifully designed buildings to economically difficult
areas, working with outstanding architects, and aligning self
with public sector values.
2.6 So far Capital and Provident Regeneration
has worked with the following architects: Penoyre & Prasad,
Buschow Henley, The Richard Rogers Partnership, Stock Woolstencroft,
Allford Hall Monaghan Morris and Levitt Bernstein.
2.7 We are also currently working on a grade
2 star listed Church for St. Johns in Hackney. We are currently
at the master planning stage of the project. The aim will be to
re-develop the surrounding area owned by the Church and the Diocese
of London to the benefit of the Church. This should enable it
to do the much needed work on their grade 2 star listed Georgian
3.1 Clearly Historic buildings, particularly
Victorian and Edwardian buildings, make very attractive regeneration
opportunities. Much of the stock is public sector control, not
least because it was built as town halls, schools, warehousing,
libraries and churches. Despite their age, they are usually well
built, with high ceilings, intricate detailing and generous floor
plans. They are also often much loved locally, because they are
remembered as they use to be, where local people went to school,
or the town hall where members of the family were married. Residential
developers often see them as highly desirable potential living
spaces. By contrast, locally people tend to want to see them used
in some way that keeps them accessible to local residents.
2.2 Industrial buildings on the other hand
are usually in industrial areas and are defined in the local UDP
as within employment zones. No longer easily accessible for modern
transport systems, with large floor plates which are difficult
to convert, and lacking the ducting that modern technology requires,
they are unattractive as development opportunities for their current
defined uses. There are areas in London where very beautiful buildings
are falling into decline because of the local authority's conviction
that these areas and their buildings should be preserved for employment.
2.3 Ironically, there's a tendency for the
local authority owners of these Victorian and Edwardian public
buildings, such as old town halls and libraries, to try to find
new uses for them without spending money on them, so they end
up being filled with community groups and voluntary sector organisations.
Unfortunately, whilst things of beauty, they are also expensive
to heat and maintain, and don't lend themselves easily to being
used by organisations who are often on shoe string budgets.
2.4 The dilemma can be: to sell them and
see them converted into private apartments, or hold on them and
scratch around for users, but which at least has the merit of
complying with existing Use Classes.
3.1 There are a large number of Victorian
and Edwardian buildings in London and our major cities (our experience
is limited to London and therefore we submit our evidence based
on that particular context.) Those buildings, which are "listed,
are offered protection, through English Heritage and local conservation
officers. Buildings, which are not listed, but maybe of great
local interest and have their own very particular beauty, are
subject to the vagaries of property developers and planners. This
can lead to mezzanines being put in appropriately, the building
fabric being handled insensitively, additions being added which
do not enhance the building, and the shape of the building internally
being hacked around which pays no regard to the historic concept
or the integrity of the building.
3.2 There is general worry in the development
industry about taking on listed buildings, because of the perception
that there will be excessive bureaucracy attached to that listing.
3.3 This has not been our experience at
Capital and Provident Regeneration. However there are other difficulties.
English Heritage has always been very supportive and helpful and
welcomes the addition of modern architecture alongside the preservation
of historic buildings. In our experience this is not always the
position of the local authority conservation officer. This is
best illustrated by our experience in a London Borough. We proposed
that a grade 2 listed building be re-furbished and new additions
be added on both the ground floor and the roof. Architects, Buschow
Henley, who are RIBA award winners, proposed very interesting
additions to the building, designed to reflect the balance of
the current elevations. English Heritage were consulted very early
and were extremely helpfulvisiting the site and advising
on elements of the building which were of particular significance.
Having followed English Heritage's advice, we assumed that the
proposed scheme design would be supported by the local conservation
officer. This turned out not to be true. Essentially it does not
matter what English Heritage thinks, if you have a conservation
officer who happens to subscribe to a view of conservation, which
believes that the word "heritage" is code for no change,
then there is nothing you can do, except appeal.
3.4 This means that whilst historic buildings
can play a vital role in regeneration, you cannot assume that
the route to a finished development will be easy. Historic buildings
have many assets. They are often very sound structurally. They
have stood up all ready for a long time, and with a bit of care
and attention can quite easily be brought back into use. They
are also often much loved in the local community because people
have been to school there or known them as a local library or
the local town hall. They consequently have a lot going from them.
In addition they usually have high ceilings and they provide very
interesting living space. However the development industry is
wary of them because of the perceived problems with local planners.
This is particularly true if the building is listed.
3.5 We have commented above on the role
of English Heritage and local authority conservation officers.
In summary, in our experience, English Heritage has a much more
enlightened view then local authority conservation officers. Of
course this is the sweeping generalisation, but our experience
has been that working with English Heritage has been a much more
positive experience than working with local authority conservation
3.6 There seems to be a view in English
Heritage that it is the integrity of the building that counts
and that bringing it back into use is the focus of design discussions.
Consequently the possibility of extending the building with some
exciting modern architecture is, for example, seen as a perfectly
valid way of both preserving and regenerating an historic building.
3.7 Local authority conservation officers
on the other hand tend to want to preserve historic buildings.
In addition they are very obsessed often with what can be important
but not over riding concerns. They particularly focus on building
line window size and roof line, rather than the overall design.
3.8 We have certainly have had the experience
of a lot of support, including letters of support from English
Heritage, simply being ignored by the conservation officers and
the planning officers.
3.9 There is an urgent need for planning
officers to have a more sophisticated view of design then they
currently have. This is true for all planning officers not just
conservation officers. Their reliance on a formulaic response
around window size and street line does not encourage good design.
They also do not work with developers and architects to produce
a solution that relates to both sensible end uses as well as to
the local environment.
3.10 This is not to say that we do not need
regulation, but we need regulation that is proactive, that is
design focused, and that understands the commercial constraints
of developers and helps them to produce better solutions and designs
then they would otherwise do.
3.11 There are a lot of developers who do
not care about design but there are many now who are trying to
understand the impact of their developments on the local environment.
There is very little help from local planners in achieving an
end result, which may make major contributions to the local community.
3.12 For example we have carried out regeneration
schemes with the support of the local New Deal Trust and English
Heritage in an area of East London where we have waited a year
for a planning consent. In addition the conservation officer has
refused to meet with or take on board the concerns of English
Heritage. This has meant that a scheme, which had major benefits
for the local community has been delayed and compromised. Since
no reasons are ever really given you are simply left with the
feeling that no matter how hard you try to work with the grain
of local buildings in the local community it is very difficult
to satisfy the planners.
3.13 If we look around we don't see any
evidence that this approach brings successful modern buildings
or excellence in the restoration of historic buildings.
4.1 It is our experience that regeneration
organisations are often very interested in historic buildings
because they will have a number on their patch. Every local authority
has old town hall libraries and schools that historically they
have not known what to do with. Often these then converted, on
the cheap, to provide community facilities. They are often unsuited
to this use and so you end up with a poorly converted historic
building, which is draughty and cold, and where the plumbing fails
to work very well.
4.2 Regeneration agencies are often interested
in focusing on these buildings to provide better facilities. In
a curious way they have been better at dealing with them than
many local authorities.
4.3 In the current financial climate local
authorities are now disposing of these buildings. This brings
additional and new problems. First of all the method of disposal
is often by public sale for the highest some of money. They then
rely on the planning system to ensure that the building is converted
for a use that the planners will find acceptable and with adequate
attention to design.
4.4 We believe that local authorities and
public agencies are often missing a major opportunity which is
to retain far more control over the buildings and to ensure that
they are developed in a way which really meets their requirements
developing a new way of working with public authorities, which
is much more focused on partnership. I would commend the approach
of the London Borough of Lambeth where they have tendered a very
beautiful historic building on the basis of finding a private
sector partner that they can work with. They are then having a
structured sale of the land. The sale only takes place once the
scheme has worked up a design that meets everybody's requirements
and has a planning consent. Since listed and historic buildings
often require a change of use, it means that the risk to the developer
is reduced and the land value increased, allowing that increased
value to be reflected in the scheme.
4.5.We think this much more partnering approach
to disposal is a far more interesting one and if historic buildings
are really going to be used to provide asset facilities and housing
locally then we would commend this approach.
4.6. We would also urge that consideration be
given to allowing a more collaborative approach between local
authority and developer where the local authority believes that
the proposed scheme will bring real benefits to the local community,
and is part of their regeneration proposals for the area.
4.7. This should include regular meetings with
the local authority, to include all the key players to a scheme,
such as the Housing Department, Regeneration departments and any
local regeneration agencies. In return, the developer should be
prepared to work on a completely open book basis, with profits
agreed in advance, and an overage agreement for any additional
5.1 The planning system and the listing
system need to be distinguished in considering urban regeneration.
5.2 Please see out comments above on the
planning system. In the main this is antiquated, unhelpful, unfocused
on the key requirements locally, uninterested in design, bureaucratic,
slow and with very occasional exceptions. It is a rare day that
a developer finds a planning officer that wants to work with them
to help them to achieve an outcome which is a well-designed building
providing facilities that are needed locally.
5.3 Planners have, in the main, become bureaucratic;
they are not achieving successful and well-designed developments.
5.4 In the main the listing system works
well. It works best where English Heritage are most involved.
There is an unhelpful split between English Heritage and the conservation
officers. We think there is strong evidence that the conservation
officer should be accountable to English Heritage and not to the
5.5 As we have already pointed out the problem
with the listing system is that it seems to have a scattergun
approach. Buildings are listed for reasons that are not apparent
to anybody locally. You can get the same buildings almost identical
in an area one of which is listed and get the full protection
of English Heritage or conservation and another, which is not
and can be demolished or very insensitively converted.
5.6 We wondered whether there is a case
for a category, which some how recognises the buildings in importance
locally and that there should be a process of being able to look
at use classes in advance of a developer having spend a great
deal of money. Historic buildings nearly always come with predetermined
uses whether that is libraries, schools, town halls or factories.
They therefore present a risk to a developer because as well as
having to design a scheme they are also having to go through a
change of use. Many planning authorities do not do pre-application
meetings and the developers are left to shoulder all the risk.
5.7 This lends us to believe that there
is a case for a mechanism for the planning authority or perhaps
a regeneration department being able to make a case with a developer
or perhaps on their own for a review of use classes in advance
of the area being developed.
5.8 The more the designs for the conversion
of a historic building are worked on collaboratively, the better
the result. In other words, if buildings are to be used as part
of the regeneration of an area, it takes more than a straight
sale to achieve the desired outcome.
5.9 A process, whereby, land sales are managed
and structured by either the local authority, or a regeneration
agency, and the land only transferred to the developer, once a
full planning consent is in place, would we believe achieve more
successful regeneration schemes.
5.10 We also think that there is a strong
argument, for an agency, and not the developer, to make a case
for a change of use across as area. This should be particular
true, where, for example, an old industrial area is zoned for
employment. At the moment, changes of use, where resisted by the
local authority, are dealt with through the appeals process on
an individual application basis. We don't think this makes for
effective planning of an area, and the money spent on appeals
is money taken away from the regeneration of the area.
6.1 Our experience with government departments
is limited, and limited to the ODPM and the DFES. There are many
excellent civil servants, but from a private sector perspective,
a strong culture of "back covering" over concerns about
outcomes seems to prevail.
7.1 The change in stamp duty regime is a
welcome recognition of the cost of development in some inner city
areas. It remains a strange anomaly that new build is not subject
to VAT, whilst refurbishment and conversion is.
7.2. Elsewhere in this evidence we have indicated
areas that we believe it would be beneficial for the government
to explore further if historic buildings are to be fully utilised
in regenerating our communities.