What projects is Complex Development Projects (CDP) currently focusing on?
“One of our major initiatives is the regeneration of the Old Town of Leamington Spa over the next decade. In collaboration with Warwick District Council, we’re working to transform this part of the town into the Leamington Creative Quarter.
“As the name suggests, this will be a hub for the creative industries and offer spaces for start-ups and scale-ups in the spheres of gaming and digital. It will also provide new venues for an exciting arts, cultural and community events programme. This ambitious long term project will breathe fresh life into the southern part of Leamington Spa.”
What form does your collaboration with the council take?
“CDP signed a ten-year regeneration agreement with Warwick District Council (WDC) to deliver all of its projects within the Creative Quarter boundary. The Council own the buildings and remain the freehold owners, but by transferring the property to CDP in the form of long leases, it allows us to form structured plans to redevelop the properties and bring economic vitality to the wider area. Regeneration projects often require public financial support, because in essence they are projects that in commercial terms do not financially work. We have worked with WDC to secure Future High Street Funds from the Government, which we are using alongside some matching funding from WDC and CDP equity and loan finance”.
“It’s a form of partnership that benefits all stakeholders, including the wider community, as the political will to drive forward change is there from the outset, with the execution of the regeneration project resting in the competent hands of experienced developers like CDP.”
In your experience, is this model of cooperation with the local council a common one?
“No, but it needs to be. CDP’s managing director Ian Harrabin – who is one of the most experienced and capable regeneration professionals in the UK – has always emphasised the importance of working in partnership with local authorities to deliver projects that have wider public benefit. It’s an ethos that really informs and suffuses everything we do.
“To my mind, CDP’s completed projects in Coventry in particular are a masterclass in private and public-sector collaboration – something that Ian has become an expert in over the span of his three-decade career, as evidenced by his MBE for services to heritage and regeneration.”
It sounds like Ian, and by extension CDP, has developed a deservedly excellent reputation. Is that what it takes to get urban regeneration projects over the line?
“Although capital is obviously also immensely important, I would say that reputation is definitely a crucial factor. When Warwick District Council was looking for a regeneration partner for the Leamington Creative Quarter, there were a few companies it could have approached – but instead, the Council actively sought out Ian and brother Brian at CDP.
“He simply has an instinct for these kinds of projects, something not least reflected in his setting-up of the Historic Coventry Trust, which has taken a number of heritage assets owned by Coventry Council and essentially upcycled them. One example of this is the city gates, which he has turned into Airbnb accommodation.
“Imagine it: unused 14th-century architecture that was costing the Council money to maintain, moved into a charity that has secured funding and invested in these buildings to make them pay for themselves, not only preserving this cultural asset for future generations but also allowing people to enjoy it and boosting the city’s image and visitor economy in the process. That’s innovative, partnership-based regeneration in action, and a stroke of genius in my opinion.”
Watch out for our full profile of James to learn about his simple yet revolutionary ideas for breathing fresh life into our high streets.