Need to know: £65 million boost for Newcastle's Science Central

The week sees funding boosts for office development and housebuilding, while a new report charts retail's struggles in a changing climate, reports Josephine Smit.

Legal & General Capital is backing development at Newcastle's Science Central
Legal & General Capital is backing development at Newcastle's Science Central

Investor Legal & General Capital is to inject £65 million into Newcastle’s Science Central regeneration scheme, under a new collaboration with development partners, Newcastle City Council and Newcastle University. The funding will support development of two office buildings on the 10 hectare former brewery site in the city centre. The Science Central site, which is located in the city’s accelerated development zone, is planned to become a science and technology hub with more than 46,000 square metres of office space and 450 homes. The site is already home to a new office development, called The Core, and Newcastle University’s research laboratories. The university’s urban sciences building is under construction and further facilities are in the pipeline.

More than 900,000 square metres of shopping centre developments planned for construction over the next five years are unlikely to be built as UK retailing continues to reshape in the face of curtailed retailer expansion, online retailing and lower rents, says property consultant Colliers International. Its midsummer retail report identifies numerous projects with planning consent or in the system that are unviable. Colliers’ head of UK retail, Mark Phillipson, said: "Shopping centre schemes are progressing but they are focused on locations with wide catchment areas and strong demographics. There is also a growing trend to extend existing successful centres." He said that town centres remain a concern: "In dysfunctional town centres, local authorities must play a growing part of grasping the nettle and exerting co-ordinated control that can bring change. The market alone cannot sort out the legacy problems that we face."

Hertfordshire councils and businesses have signed a commitment to delivering regeneration and growth in Stevenage’s town centre, almost a year after they published a regeneration framework. The commitment was signed by Stevenage First, a group comprising Stevenage Borough Council, Hertfordshire County Council, Hertfordshire Chamber of Commerce and Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership. Together they are responsible for driving more than £1 billion of development across six opportunity areas. The masterplan includes a rail station, 3,600 homes, 65,000 square metres of office space, 24,000 square metres of retail, hotel and a community hub. Development partners are being sought for the first phase of regeneration, including a new library, medical facilities and town centre housing. Network Rail has confirmed £18.8 million for a new fifth platform at Stevenage Station in 2020, and plans are being developed for station refurbishment and development opportunities on neighbouring sites.

Two proposed devolution deals for East Anglia offer £300 million funding for housing across the region over five years. Government’s devolution package for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough includes £170 million funding for housing. This includes a £70 million fund ring-fenced to Cambridge City Council to provide 500 new council homes over five years, and a £100 million affordable housing fund to provide affordable rented and low cost homes across the Greater Cambridge area over five years. A deal on offer to Norfolk and Suffolk pledges £130 million over five years for housing, including £30 million dedicated to Ipswich and Norwich. The deals have yet to receive local approval.

City of Edinburgh Council has set out plans to build 8,000 affordable homes over the next decade, under its new housing strategy. The council's housebuilding commitment is being matched by six housing associations, meaning a total of 16,000 affordable and low cost homes are set to be delivered in the city. The council has also agreed plans to deliver 193 homes in Craigmillar, boosting its town centre regeneration.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan says an initiative aimed at reducing the number of new homes sold to overseas investors by prioritising UK buyers has proved "toothless". The scheme, which was introduced by Khan’s predecessor Boris Johnson, had the backing of more than 50 developers but lacked monitoring, enforcement and sanctions, said the Mayor. Khan has asked Greater London Authority officers to look at alternative options.

Liverpool City Council is looking to follow the lead already set by boroughs such as Croydon and Gateshead and establish its own housing development company. The planned company will help meet local housing need by developing homes for sale and rent on land owned by the council and by the public and private sector. The council aims to offer a range of tenures, including starter home, rent to buy and shared ownership, but says it will not offer social rented homes or compete with housing associations. It wants to maximise construction employment opportunities for local firms and recycle profits into council services. It says it may also buy and refurbish vacant property to support parts of the city where the housing market is struggling.

East Midlands affordable housing provider Futures Housing Group has struck a £147 million financing deal to support plans to triple its housebuilding activity and develop a market sale subsidiary. The agreement will help the provider build more than 1,000 new homes by 2020. A total of £3.5 million will be used to directly fund homes for outright sale by its new commercial development subsidiary, Limehouse.

Birmingham City Council is set to approve a £4.5 million funding package to buy privately owned empty homes in order to bring them back into use, provide much needed housing and remove their negative impact on neighbourhoods. Over the past three years the council has brought around 1,000 empty homes back into use.

South Yorkshire Housing Association (SYHA) is entering the private rented sector with a scheme of 219 apartments at the Steelworks site in Sheffield’s Kelham Island, after securing backing from investor Cheyne Social Property Impact Fund. All the apartments will be offered for rent through SYHA’s own estate agency, Crucible Sales and Lettings, with around a third of the homes offered at sub-market rents.

Living in an older, walkable suburb could help you live longer, a new report from research institute, Create Streets, suggests. The report, Heart in the right street, acknowledges that other factors, such as prosperity, have a part to play in this debate, but says well connected older inner suburbs are, "most clearly associated with long life expectancy". The new report explores links between the built environment and wellbeing.

Consultant Atkins has been appointed sustainability advisor on London’s Old Oak Common redevelopment. The consultant will work with Old Oak and Park Royal Development Corporation and cost and project management consultant Faithful+Gould to develop sustainability targets for the planned 25,000 home regeneration area.

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