The city council has decided to wind up the company and release an estimated £15m worth of city development sites to the open market. The largest site is Criterion Place, which has outline consent for a 24,620 sq m (265,000 sq ft) office. It is one of the largest office development sites ever to be put on the open market in Leeds.
The council is planning to sell off the company’s assets over an 18-month period. The company’s seven directors will be made redundant. If the sites do not achieve the required market value, they will be bought back by the council.
It is understood that the council had become unwilling to shoulder the burden of the company’s debts. The council will now focus on public/private partnerships on a site-by-site basis.
Alan Howe of the council-owned Leeds Development Agency said: ‘The company has done its job. Leeds has been transformed in the last 10 years. Developers aren’t exactly queuing up, but the level of demand is much better.’ Howe said that the council would now set up joint-venture partnerships with a limited lifespan in which the council would have a minority stake of 20% or less.
Leeds City Development Company was first established in 1985 and became fully operational in 1988. The company developed more than 6,500 sq m (700,000 sq ft) of property in its 13-year history.
Regeneration experts have said the move highlighted the difficulties involved in public/private partnerships.
Nigel Smith, head of urban regeneration at Drivers Jonas, said: ‘The company was doomed from day one. With no cash and no clout, it was going nowhere. This decision proves that multi-purpose regeneration vehicles are very difficult to make work. The best public/private agreements are designed to carry out a specific development.’