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Wednesday, September 16, 2015

PLANNING WARS: ARE THE BRISTOLIANS PULLING OUT OF THE NEW NORTH WESTGATE PETERBOROUGH DEVELOPMENT?


BREAKING NEWS: We hear that planning officers are to recommend approval for BOTH cinemas. It still has to go before the Planning Committee at the end of the month.. and has now been approved.  We say it's the right and a bold decision by the Planning Committee, supporting the NEW owners of the Queensgate Shopping Centre and its plan to spend some £30 million in this City starting in January! They now have full planning permission, so hopefully local Conservative MP Stewart Jackson will take off his 'Claret Goggles' and get fully and properly behind the Queensgate management rather than sniping from the back benches and through the weekly Westminster Pondlife essay, someone throws together for the local newspaper....







PBROTRIBinsight   by Julian Bray

UPDATE : Our response is now (September 16th 2015) on the PCC Application file which is open to public inspection.
Most applications are decided by planning officers under delegated powers and not at a formal committee meeting of the Council.
If this is one of the few to be decided at a formal committee meeting, objectors and/or supporters may be invited to speak at the meeting. You still have a few days to submit your written views..

The Case Officer is Mrs J MacLennan
Email: planningcontrol@Peterborough.gov.uk 

Direct Tel: 01733 435410

The planning application reference number must be included.


The PCC Planning Application reference is

15/0103/FUL


The nine page bombastic, blustering letter to the PCC Planning Committee from the Bristol based property agents Savill retained by the Bristol based firm behind the so-called £100 million New North Westgate Development Scheme in Peterborough suggests it might not go ahead, say their client the Bristol based Hawksworth Securities. How dare these 'westcountry wurzels' dictate planning in our East Coast City! 

They employed a local Peterborough PR firm and with a lot of money thrown at it conned some media outfits and the local back bench MP - who seems unable to take in the full brief - totally fell for it. The PBROTRIB decided to have a closer look, and has obtained the documents. It makes for chilling reading.

We were so appalled by the not so veiled threats against the CINEMA proposal for Queensgate Shopping Centre. a kind of 'blackmail' in the nine page letter that we decided to have a much closer look.  The Bristolians are saying if you Queensgate dare put a cinema in your shopping centre, then kiss goodbye to the £100million North Westgate Development. Nice!

Unless we are mistaken, Hawksworth Securities are trying it on, trying to effect a reduction of their financial liability, similar to the Peterborough District Hospital site deal agreed by council then further discounted and affordable housing totally axed.  

You'll recall that Tory back bencher Stewart Jackson MP repeatedly claimed credit for the initial District Hospital deal.. ooops... Seems the former bank manager now MP, recently censured over Mpsexpenses by the parliamentary watchdog... an MP with a reduced majority is backing Hawksworth, and going against the shopping centre cinema deal.

Sad really as it would affect Broadways revival chances too. Odd that the Jackson family, will probably be first in the Broadway stalls when the new Bill Kenwright season starts. The Broadway holds a D2 cinema licence Stewart ....as does the nearby Clare Theatre. Still looking on the bright side, the shopping centre could always bar him and his wider family! Shamefully Jackson is using the local newspaper editorial columns to promote his views. The Editor seems to be out to lunch, reviewing yet another restaurant, and has missed it !!

Not that we'd ever suggest to Queensgates owners, the parent company to pull all their advertising from JP titles up and down the country... but if they are allowing the MP editorial free reign with little or no balance, ahead of the planning committee...

However despite the MPs lobby activity, we think this is the first stage before Hawksworth discreetly pulls out and lays the blame at the door of the City Council.

For once, we are delighted to report the City Council is actually in the clear. Must be going soft in my dotage...
16th September 2015
Mrs J MacLennan
Peterborough City Council
Planning Development Management
Town Hall
Bridge Street
Peterborough
PE1 1HP

Dear Mrs MacLennan,

Full Planning Application 15/01013/FUL Queensgate Shopping Centre, Westgate,  Peterborough

PTRIB Document 1
Full Planning Application 15/01013/FUL Queensgate Shopping Centre, Westgate,  Peterborough

PTRIB Document 2
Outline Planning Permission Hawksworth Securities 15/01041/OUT North Westgate Development

Key related documents:

PTRIB Document 3
Planning Permission 99/01541/FUL Modernisation and extension of existing Cinema  to create a multi-use auditorium building linked to adjacent development (revision to 97/PO184)

PTRIB Document 4 
Planning Permission 04/01560/FUL Use as Theatre and Cinema (D2).


1.       You will have received a nine page letter from a firm of property surveyors Savills Ltd from their Bristol Office, signed and submitted on behalf of their Bristol based client Mr Breach of Hawksworth Securities, by a West Country resident Craig O’Brien BA (HONS) BTP MPTPI. The astonishingly aggressive tone of Mr O’Briens thinly veiled threat on behalf of his Bristol based client contained therein has greatly concerned the readers of the Peterborough Tribune blog (over 584,100 page views, of which 9,000 hits in August 2015 alone).

2.       Although Peterborough based PR firm Athlone hired by Hawksworth Securities possibly to assist with local knowledge, and are fully aware of the scope of the Peterborough Tribune [PT], and indeed has in the past contracted Julian Bray directly to provide a media training instructional session for it clients, still chose to exclude the PT from the media distribution list.

3.       Simply The Peterborough Tribune was not included in the initial press distribution of Mr O’Briens letter to you. We have since obtained the documents referred to above, directly from Planning Control.

4.       Interestingly Mr O’Brien appears not to be a qualified Chartered Surveyor. We could be wrong, but his property related surveying qualification would have appeared on the Savills subsidiary Bristol based company redacted letterhead, it seems to be missing.

 5.       As the Editor of the Peterborough Tribune Blog, I have been asked by readers to assist the PPC Planning Committee, to ensure PCC Planning officers are not misled or possibly confused by the nine page strongly worded, but in our view wholly misguided and possibly mischievous letter from Mr O’Brien.

6.       Reading between the lines, and in view of the specific threat contained on Page 8, Paragraph 35 headed Conclusions, it appears that Mr Breach is possibly paving the way for a discreet withdrawal from the whole project, but possibly attempting to save face with his financial backers, the thinking being the justification for ‘canning the project’ or making a short term gain for his Bristol based company, by selling on the outline planning permission or as in the case of the Peterborough District Hospital Site,  renegotiating with the PCC to reduce Mr Breachs’ firms financial liability, and would then be in a position to publicly lay the blame for the collapse of this scheme at the City Councils doorstep, thus maintaining faith with his own backers. Happily we have seen through this ruse.

7.       Having looked at the year on year ‘slender’ financials of Hawksworth Securities, and in turn the heavy reliance they are placing on outside funding, consultants, consideration should be given to the simple fact that Northgate is for Mr Breachs’ modest firm ‘a project too far’ as their own audited accounts with a high level of gearing do not suggest they are comfortable progressing a multifaceted major City core regeneration project of this size. If they are unable to complete the initial due diligence process - which would have quickly revealed that long established planning permission for other major D2 cinema and theatre spaces already exist and within walking distance of the proposed Northgate development. We have helpfully provided the Planning references above.

8.       Therefore as representative of Peterborough residents, and not in any way connected with the current parties mentioned, we intend to  show the ‘objection’ letter is little more than a theatrical marketing device contrived to favour a speculative ‘sometime in the future’ possible development.

9.       Clearly this is the core thrust of a considered campaign to recast the perceived value of the NWD future project, possibly to the detriment of existing, immediately viable and fully viable retail and catering, café bar operations already operating and the Council must recognise these as EXISTING major revenue earners in terms of business rates and attracting shoppers, increasing much needed footfall into the City Centre and not simply a qualified claim for something  that could well fail as evidenced at Page 7 paragraph 34.


10.  The letter submitted by Savills, is in our considered view factually incorrect and inconsistent with Savills publicly stated aim to “apply our in-depth understanding and knowledge of local and national markets to ensure robust viability evidence, founded on commercial reality.”


11.    The 9 page document is also being heavily promoted, ‘touted around media circles’ by a Peterborough based PR Company who probably have the only real day-to-day connection with the City of Peterborough. They are however complicit in managing an effective, widespread but in our view highly misleading media public relations campaign, and as a result attracted substantial editorial comment from local and regional media, and possibly the wider international property trade press. For example as part of the so called ‘consultation process’ Hawksworth Securites suggest they only one (repeat one) vote in favour of retaining The Brewery Tap. If Hawksworth Securities and their agents Savills truly had ‘local knowledge’ they would have known that many, many thousands of votes had been cast over the last few years in the “Save The Tap” campaign, the results made known to PCC members and inter alia Hawksworth Securities own retainedPR firm!

12.  Clearly Peterborough City Councils actions and those of the Planning Committee, in dealing with this matter will continue to be under the critical media spotlight.


13.    At no time has the nine page objection letter been published in full, just we contend highly misleading selective quotes from the Savills Bristol based client Hawksworth Securities who are behind the speculative NWD scheme have been printed and editorialised without the claims being subjected to deeper journalistic and legal scrutiny.


14.    The objection letter submitted seeks to rubbish the application by Queensgate Shopping Centre, as they have dared to include a modest multiscreen cinema as part of the continuing high quality improvement of the QSC generally, and new development and refurbishment contained in their application. The PCC should be aware that Queensgate Shopping Centre IS ALREADY contributing substantial revenues to the City of Peterborough treasury. Something the PCC should never forget.

15.    The Bristol based Saville client is simply suggesting a speculative financial return sometime in the distant future.

16.    Before we deal with the Savill objection letter in detail, it is important to establish exactly how Savills are seeking to influence the planning process: The content (or copy) below is taken directly from the Savill website and is particularly relevant:


17.  “Economic and policy conditions continue to put pressure on the profitability and deliverability of development projects. Viability appraisals and evidence are increasingly becoming the key to unlocking constraints and bringing forward development.


18.  Our main goal is to help clients de-risk affordable housing within schemes and deliver financially viable planning consents…..

19.  The PCC members will recall that in the recent case of the re-negotiation of the contract for the Former Peterborough District Hospital site, the London based property developer in that case successfully argued a planning strategy which “helped de-risk affordable housing within schemes and deliver financially viable planning consents….” In fact the requirement for affordable housing has vanished AND the property developers financial liability further reduced – after it had already been discounted!  We repeat “Our main goal is to help clients de-risk affordable housing within schemes and deliver financially viable planning consents….. That goal in the District Hospital case, seems to be working, and in that case the developers’ goal was more than achieved….


20.  There are other markers which help to define the high impact strategy being employed by both the developers and their several consultants in the North Westgate Development and appear throughout the nine page letter of objection.

21.  The letter:

22.  Page 1 Paragraph 1 to 3 This sets out ‘the stall’ the basis for the application by Queensgate and is particularised in PBROTRIB Document 1.


23.  Page 2 Paragraphs 4 Issue has to be taken with the style and tone, as several assertions of fact are made by Savills, when in reality, it is, at this stage, no more than speculation, or at least an educated guess. No one has fully signed up as far as we can tell.

24.  The letter suggests the first phase of redevelopment of the North Westgate development area will achieve regeneration of the City Centres needs.

25.  In reality, this is a phased development spread over many years, no immediate short or medium term financial return is offered to this City.
  

26.  Phase one alone will have little immediate impact apart from inflicting continuing building works on an area that has already endured the snail like progress of Bourges Boulevard, where the contractors seemed to work weekday office hours and abandoned that site at weekends.

27.  It is not clear if the cinema complex proposed by North Westgate is to be operating before the completion of phase One but in any event to have a functioning community and a viable audience for that unproven cinema is well down the line and not likely to be achieved without substantial marketing whereas QSC has its marketing already in place, has the potential audience, ever increasing footfall numbers and currently operating – to the benefit of the City of Peterborough. The QSC also carries out regular high impact seasonal television advertising campaigns featuring Peterborough, as does the Bill Kenwright company, who are currently presenting their second Winter season at the 1,000 seat Broadway Theatre and Cinema.

28.   To be helpful if the North Westgate development contained an IMAX cinema; now that might act as a prime anchor. But looking at the existing planning consents issued by the City of Peterborough over the years, if as the developers say, it is the anchor for phase one, then clearly the author of the objection letter is blissfully unaware of the planning precedent for approval of D2 Cinema and Theatre use in the central area of Peterborough and we refer to PBROTRIB Document 3  Planning Permission  99/01541/FUL Modernisation and extension of existing Cinema  to create a multi-use auditorium building linked to adjacent development (revision to 97/PO184)


29.  The Queensgate proposal for a cinema will immediately have a ready generated audience for a multiplex cinema which will be up and running several years before the overall North Westgate development reaches its final stage.  In addition, the regeneration of The Broadway Theatre with a second winter and Christmas season of West End musicals produced by Bill Kenwright, and opening mid November 2015 will see a steady injection of some 2 to 3,000 extra people in the city centre on each and every performance day, week in, week out.


30.  The last time this happened, two years ago, the entire season sold out, and the then hard pressed City Centre benefited substantially from increased footfall.


31.  The following year when the theatre was dark, it had a negative effect on Christmas retail and hospitality trade and indeed two major high volume nightspots closed down immediately after New Year.

32.  The point being the City of Peterborough urgently needs revenue generation now, and it makes sound commercial sense for Queensgate to complete all building and redevelopment works in one early phase and ideally before the major several years of disruption of the North Westgate Development.


33.  Page 2 Paragraph 5  The Savills letter suggests North Westgate proposals “represent significant planned investment” it is of course only a proposal, and the Bristol based developers do not as of todays date have substantive secured funds firmly in place to start to acquire the hundreds of freeholds required to progress their outline proposal.


34.  Midway through this paragraph the Savills Bristol letter suggest our West Country developer has confirmed interest, but then furiously backpedals ‘this is conditional upon the alternative scheme at QSC not proceeding alongside North Westgate!’


35.   Clearly if the Broadway Theatre with its existing planning permission: PBROTRIB Documents Namely: PTRIB Document 3  Planning Permission  99/01541/FUL Modernisation and extension of existing Cinema  to create a multi-use auditorium building linked to adjacent development (revision to 97/PO184)  and PTRIB Document 4  Planning Permission 04/01560/FUL Use as Theatre and Cinema (D2) was to re-activate or alternate live performance with 1,000 seat cinema presentations, (possibly Bollywood film productions which have substantial family appeal to our Asian communities) then the highly conditional interest to operate the North Westgate Cinema, said to be on the table according to the Savills Bristol letter would in fact go away. They have no firm offer, and clearly not in a position to dictate and counter already granted D2 permissions as evidenced in PTRIB Document 3 and PTRIB Document 4.

36.   The Savills 9 page letter, and this is something new, not disclosed before, and must be very worrying as it at length spells out the fragile financial nature of the whole North Westgate proposition. Clearly the authors not understanding or aware that substantial planning consents for cinema and theatrical use already exist, and have existed for many years, and within the City centre.

37.   Contrary to Savills assertion the existing permissions meet all regional development plan objectives see  PTRIB Document 3  Planning Permission  99/01541/FUL Modernisation and extension of existing Cinema  to create a multi-use auditorium building linked to adjacent development (revision to 97/PO184)  and PTRIB Document 4  Planning Permission 04/01560/FUL Use as Theatre and Cinema (D2).

38.   By now it is painfully clear the Savills Bristol letter from Page 2 Paragraph 8 to Page 6 paragraph 30 is a justification for restraining trade in Peterborough, simply doing nothing, but possibly from a lack of local knowledge or incomplete research ignores the substantive D2 permissions already in place for the Broadway Theatre & Cinema.  Having exhausted that line, a straight threat to pull out, is contained at Page 7 Paragraph 34, Savills on behalf of their Bristolian client says in effect, grant QSC cinema D2 planning permission and the whole £100 million Northgate development goes away. Needless to say, the £100 million is a possible figure, plucked out of the air by yet another industry consultant to the Bristol-based firm.

39.   It logically follows that based on existing planning permissions as evidenced by the documents, if you accept the Savills 9 page letter at face value the game is therefore already over, and the developers Hawksworth Securities are clearly planning a discreet withdrawal, from North Westgate.  

40.   They cannot refute the key related documents we have:  PTRIB Document 1  Full Planning Application 15/01013/FUL Queensgate Shopping Centre, Westgate,  Peterborough, PTRIB Document 2

41.   Outline Planning Permission Hawksworth Securities 15/01041/OUT North Westgate Development 

42.   Key related documents:  

43.   PTRIB Document 3  Planning Permission  99/01541/FUL Modernisation and extension of existing Cinema  to create a multi-use auditorium building linked to adjacent development (revision to 97/PO184) PTRIB Document 4  Planning Permission 04/01560/FUL Use as Theatre and Cinema (D2).  

44.   Clearly none of this rings true, if the entire so called £100 million investment in North Queensgate relies solely on a 20th Century Cinema concept, clearly the City should call Hawkshead Securities bluff, go with the proposal that puts almost immediate sustained additional revenues into this City, namely the well presented, and commercially viable QSC multiplex, which already has already made audiences and substantial footfall to sustain it.  


45.   Finally, the nine page Savill letter lays great store in referring to Planning Policy Context (Page 2 Paragraph 8 to Page 7 Paragraph 32 inclusive). We would specifically draw your attention to Notice of Planning Permission Ref 04/01560/FUL Decision date 20 December 2004 Use as Theatre and Cinema (D2). “The application is therefore considered to be in keeping with Policy RLT20 of the Adopted Peterborough Local Plan and CC4 of the Replacement Local Plan.” This effectively rubbishes the laboured and ultimately flawed Savill assertions set out over 4 folios.  

46.   We would submit there is no valid reason for not applying a like logic in approving the ‘shovel ready’ Full Planning Application 15/01013/FUL Queensgate Shopping Centre, Westgate, Peterborough, and its proposal for a small multiplex cinema. The cinema proposed will have little or no bearing on the North Westgate future development as it already has a well defined audience sustained by regular TV camapigns attracting footfall to the City Centre and thus a positive benefit for any completed Phases of the North Westgate scheme.

47.   Without a vibrant Queensgate Shopping Centre producing day on day substantial financial revenues for the City Council, the council deficit would be clearly much larger and continue to grow. The QSC has new owners who are well resourced, know this region well, employ hundreds of local people, they are securely funded and are considerably improving and renovating an ‘elderly’ shopping centre, in our view a valuable City centre core asset, sadly neglected by its previous owners, who decided Peterborough had no future, as the High Speed Railway was routed through Birmingham where they now operate from. It would be commercial suicide by the City Council not to nurture and encourage new business and create new opportunities. To cave into the style of ‘threats’ contained within the Saville letter, would show to prospective Times Top 100 companies, that they too would meet objections from Savill, Bristol on behalf of their client if they also dared as QSC is seeking to do, to increase the attractiveness of their retail or presentational offer in the City Centre,  Other potential new business would soon be aware of the QSC Cinema Planning decision, if only that Saville Bristol will use it as a case history promoting their mantra:

48.  “Economic and policy conditions continue to put pressure on the profitability and deliverability of development projects. Viability appraisals and evidence are increasingly becoming the key to unlocking constraints and bringing forward development. Our main goal is to help clients de-risk affordable housing within schemes and deliver financially viable planning consents….”  Savill Website

Yours truly


Julian Bray


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ampoon (lampoon) Pronunciation: /lamˈpuːn/ verb [with object] publicly criticize (someone or something) by using ridicule, irony, or sarcasm: the actor was lampooned by the press noun a speech or text lampooning someone or something: the magazine fired at God, Royalty, and politicians, using cartoons and lampoons.

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