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News - 30 April 2006

King Alfred scheme far from “dead”

Despite the headline in the local newspaper this week declaring the demise of the King Alfred redevelopment, the plans have been shown to be 99% spot-on and tremendous value for the city.

The sudden flurry of excitement has been caused by three recent developments; the District Valuer’s (DV) report questioning the finances of the scheme (see earlier story in the knowledgebase); the reservations of the Commission for Architecture and the Build Environment (CABE) about some aspects of the design and similar reservations from English Heritage (EH) which has resulted in their objection to the scheme in its current form.

If you strip away the hype and the heat generated by those opposed to the development, what does this mean in reality?

A significant element of the DV report that has largely been overlooked is what tremendous value the city is getting from the proposals. A site that is worth about £11m on the open market is being converted into a £46m sports centre, a new public realm and hundreds of affordable homes at no additional cost to the Council.

Hardly surprising that the report identified that there isn’t a lot of money left for additional Section 106 proposals. The report also addresses the continuing accusation that such developments are all about fat profits for big developers. It actually suggests that the profit is modest compared to the risk and the sums involved.

Karis/ING have used one of the country’s largest cost analysts to calculate their figures. They have far more experience of large-scale developments than the District Valuer.

CABE and EH both have similar concerns about the scheme - the mass of the perimeter buildings fronting onto Kingsway and some aspects of access to the site and the new public realm. They have no concerns about the two towers, which have proved to be the most controversial aspect of the scheme locally. Indeed EH consider that they could be even taller.

These are issues that require some further design work. They do not sound the death knell for the entire scheme.


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