Developer St Congar Land, backed by funding partner Europa Capital, has bought the Ford Motor Company’s former stamping works site in Dagenham, for around £26 million.
The move suggests that the site will now progress with some pace through planning, with a scheme drawn up for a major housing development.
The new owners have said they will prepare a mixed use development plan for the 42 acre brownfield site, including 2,650 homes.
“The shortage of housing stock in London can only be realistically addressed by developing eastwards, said Europa Capital director Hugo Black. “With a railway station adjacent to the site providing a journey time to the City of less than 20 minutes, the site represents an exciting opportunity in one of best value for money areas of London.”
Work will start next year on an adjacent tunnel, to improve the A13 arterial road close to the site.
Back in 2014, the GLA looked at the possibility of buying the site to facilitate development, arguing “a clear strategic benefit” for the GLA. In a submission for obtaining a site valuation, a report noted: “Its acquisition would enable the GLA to control a large section of brownfield land (49ha) critical to the regeneration of London Riverside and achievement of the London Plan and Housing Strategy’s targets for homes and jobs.”
The borough of Barking and Dagenham, in which the site sits, has previously identified the site, and its adjacent Beam Park, as a growth hub. In January, Countryside and London and Quadrant Housing Trust were selected to redevelop Beam Park, against a plan for 3,000 new homes, a new train station and community facilities. The project will include over 35% affordable homes, along with shared ownership properties. The council commented: “We’re keen to ensure that any development proposals coming forward for the adjacent site – the former Ford Stamping Plant – will complement the Beam Park development.”
LPA Perspective: The duo of St Congar and Europa are well versed in buying developable sites, often without planning permission in place, then taking them through the process before selling them on with permission.
Often such plays can take a good while, waiting for sites to be included in local plans, or planning restrictions to be eased. In the case of the stamping works, it is to be hoped that a following wind will ensure that planning permission is granted without too much trouble, allowing development to proceed within the next five years.
In any case, the site is likely to come forward more quickly in private sector hands, than if the GLA had purchased it. The public body has taken a considerable time getting the adjacent Beam Park site progressed for redevelopment.
One downside of the involvement of land promoters such as St Congar, is that they will sell on, and so are not interested in creating projects that win hearts, minds and urban planning prizes. Had the site been bought by a developer with longer term aspirations to stay around, we might expect to see a better quality outcome. British Land, for example, has taken hold of a not dissimilar scale of site at Canada Water, where it has put community developer Roger Madelin into bat, to help develop a scheme that promises much. Will the stamping works site simply become a dense mass of commuter homes? That’s down to the planners at Barking & Dagenham.