Dropping developer 'was right decision'
STOPPING the process of selecting a single developer as a partner in around £400million worth of regeneration projects in Torbay has been defended as 'the right decision'.
After months of negotiation, Torbay Council agreed not to proceed with the setting up of a joint venture company with single developer, Hawkstone PLC, following a recommendation from the board of the Torbay Development Agency.
The decision was questioned at the TDA's annual meeting by former mayoral candidate Dennis Brewer, who said a year ago the 'special relationship/strategic partnership' with a single developer had been described as a 'key factor' for the success of the TDA.
Part of that relationship was to tackle the retail regeneration issues, which he said were 'quite severe' in Torbay. He asked what approach the agency was now going to take without the joint venture company.
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John Richards (pictured), TDA chairman, said: "The ambition and thinking behind this particular partnership made perfect sense a year ago. But as in many things in the difficult business environment we live in, the devil truly is in the detail.
"If you cannot strike a contract in a strategic partnership which provides balance, makes sense and gives the Bay a good chance of seeing those projects actually happen and achieves one of its goals which is long term working together for mutual benefit, if it becomes too one sided, then there is a point at which it no longer is the best option.
"At that point the fallback is to look at these projects on an individual basis and recognise there is a perhaps more complicated solution, less simple to sell, but which offers a better outcome to the Bay in terms of timing and commercial advantage.
"That is the right way to go. That was the recommendation of the board, accepted by the council, and I am confident that remains the best advice."
TDA chief executive Steve Parrock added that while they were not proceeding with a single company, they were still working on the vast majority of projects that had been on the table.
He said: "Over the next six to 12 months you will hear about individual agreements with developers. One of the distinct advantage is that one can play with lots of different people and develop all sorts of different relationships which might have been excluded if you had an exclusive partner.
"We are talking to Hawkstone and will be meeting with all the previous bidders and with people who didn't make the shortlist who have asked to work with us.
"Not pursuing the joint venture company is not a failure, it just means we will deal with some of those projects in a different way. We never put all out proposals in the joint venture company so we haven't broken all our eggs because they were in one basket. The worse thing we could have done was enter into a bad deal. We made the right decision for the longer term benefit of the Bay."
Mayor Gordon Oliver said they were still in 'deep discussion' with two of the developers they had met through the joint venture company bid.
He said: "It's a new agenda. I think the process before was dated, somewhat inflexible and we now have a far better chance of undertaking many more transactions with a whole range of developers than we had before. They are all still with us, and they want to work with us and we want to work with them."