North East England Case Study

A high profile estate decided that their own in-house chartered surveyors needed specialist development support for a major development opportunity. Court Consulting was recommended by their London solicitor who appreciated the level of detail that we go into during our negotiations and briefing of clients for the heads of terms that underpin the legal agreement and reporting structure that ensures the developer performs during the period where they are seeking planning consent.

The estate lies in a sensitive location and contains a large number of listed buildings and an historic parkland landscape that needed to be protected. The choice of developer was vitally important as they had to be credible both to the planning authority but also to English Heritage who had to support the proposal.

Following much detailed pre application discussions and substantial investment by the developer in top quality landscape advice a scheme was agreed that would give both an initial capital return to the estate to allow it to restore its buildings but also a long term income flow to ensure that the listed buildings can be maintained and estate expanded in the future.

We negotiated a very detailed agreement with the developer whilst working with a number of different advisors to the estate and its owners. This was a hybrid option and promotion agreement that enabled the developer to build some of the housing to set the high tone needed to achieve best value and also to install the infrastructure to then allow high price sales of small groups of plots for bespoke designs in sub areas around the development.

There were differing objectives from the different generations of owners which did not initially sit comfortably with each other. An important part of our role is to make sure that the landowners are comfortable with what they are signing up to and understand what the end results may be; especially important in this case as the family would continue to live on the estate and not move elsewhere on the development proceeds which can be the case with farmer clients.

The developer achieved an excellent consent very swiftly due to diligent pre application work with the officers and councillors, that was agreed before then with the landowners. The consent was for four hundred high value houses set in very attractive but well screened parkland, with several hundred thousand square feet of employment space.

Key points:

  • The choice of developer was not a conventional one and several high profile regional “names” were turned down as it was not felt they would work with the estate to the level of detail required.
  • The chosen partner had excellent local political contacts within his relatively tight geographical area of operations. This allowed support to be delivered from the start which in return convinced the developer to invest heavily in the specialist reports and consultants that were needed due to the historic landscape setting.