Private equity firm offers alternative funding to avoid 'monstrosity' proposed for Scarborough's Old Town
A private equity firm has offered an alternative source of funding to avoid a "monstrosity" being approved at a planning meeting in Scarborough on Thursday.
A letter to Scarborough Council’s chief executive from APCA Capital, which describes itself as absentee landlord investors in the town, emerged days before councillors meet to decide a £22m development in the Old Town.
Wrenbridge and Buccleuch Property’s plans to replace the Argos building on Newborough with 200 flats for students and NHS workers and retail have provoked a slew of objections over the demands it will place on parking, its size, and whether it is value for money.
Many opponents have called for a public square instead. However it has been recommended for approval.
The council is borrowing £22m from the Public Works Loan Board to finance the scheme.
Last month deputy leader Liz Colling told councillors the suggestion of a public square was a "myth", as they couldn’t borrow money on something which didn’t generate income.
But APCA say they are "willing – and have the demonstrable financial strength to deliver" the square as envisaged in the renaissance charter of nearly two decades ago at no cost to the council. It would be funded by a rent for the square "at a level the council could make a modest profit from the many functions that it could accommodate".
Chief executive John Steven said: "We believe in the original vision. I think everybody does. It works commercially and is the right thing for Scarborough."
He said there was strong demand for property, adding: "You could almost say Scarborough’s time has come.
"Any basic economic look at the facts and figures and figures would support what I'm saying - it's to make sure people are aware there's an alternative option.
"To be fair councils across the country are under a lot of pressure. There are ways this could be done. There is no capital requirement from the council."
A report to members on Thursday says issues of costs and the council's prospective purchase of the building are not material planning considerations and any concerns "should be raised and debated in other forums." It says the housing proposed is "entirely appropriate" for the site.
The public square proposal of 2003 is also dismissed as being "aspirational" and no longer in the local plan.
Many have raised concerns that the lack of car parking in the plans will make problems with parking in the area even worse.
The report says the NHS trust has agreed to secure 52 off-street parking permits.
The York and Scarborough Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust back the plans as they believe it will help recruit staff and students.
Scarborough Council said. "Full council has already agreed to proceed with the redevelopment of the Argos site in Scarborough, subject to planning permission.
"The planning committee will consider the proposal to demolish the former Argos building and create accommodation for university students and NHS key workers when it meets on Thursday December 9. The scheme is an ambitious plan to regenerate and improve the town centre."