Rio Ferdinand's charity agrees deal on Bedfordshire urban extension

Former footballer Rio Ferdinand's regeneration charity has signed a deal to work with Central Bedfordshire Council to use an innovative funding mechanism to bring forward more than 1,000 homes in a mixed-use scheme on the edge of Houghton Regis.

Rio Ferdinand and Brandon Lewis at MIPIM last week
Rio Ferdinand and Brandon Lewis at MIPIM last week

His Legacy Foundation has agreed a six month exclusivity agreement with the council over the local authority-owned site, by the end of which both parties say they hope outline planning permission will have been granted.

The Legacy Foundation’s intention is to provide sporting and educational facilities as well as a mix of affordable and private housing on the 22 hectare site, which is in Kingsland, a part of Houghton Regis which is one of the 20 per cent most deprived areas in England.

The site is half made up of greenfield land, with the other half currently hosting a mix of educational and leisure facilities.

In a document published to coincide with an announcement of the deal at the MIPIM property fair in France last week, Ferdinand said: "We aim to deliver schemes with local authorities that will empower their tenants through an on-site sporting academy as well as providing high quality accommodation for all".

The Legacy Foundation says it will bring together local authorities, funding partners and professional teams "to make schemes happen".

Chaired by Ferdinand, it also involves as partners the footballers Mark Noble and Bobby Zamora. It is working alongside developer McLaren, and is advised by consultancy Colliers International.

The funding partner on the Kingsland project is Aviva Investors, and planning consultants are Nathaniel Lichfield & Partners.

The foundation says that a minimum of 45 per cent of the homes delivered on each of its schemes will be "social and key worker" housing. It says this will be enabled by a financial model that can deliver schemes on local authority land and give the council an income stream, without requiring it to fund construction costs or relinquish its assets.

Under the model, the private tenants that will occupy 55 per cent of the homes on Legacy schemes will pay their rent directly to the local authority, which the charity says will give councils an income stream with which to support local services.

The freehold is retained by the local authority, while the private investor buys a long leasehold of typically 45 years. Development is funded by private investment, with the council itself paying rent to the leaseholder.

The Department for Communities and Local Government is backing the model, and is working alongside the Legacy team on the Kingsland development.

Speaking at its MIPIM launch, housing and planning minister Brandon Lewis said: "We are looking for innovative schemes. Legacy brings to the table something very different. At its core is that determination to deliver something that doesn't just deliver the housing, but delivers a really cohesive community, with real opportunity for people to have stronger life chances and a better environment in which to live".

The Kingsland site is not an existing housing estate but, according to Colliers International director Richard Walsh, Ferdinand wants the foundation to mainly focus on existing estates "because that is where the problems lie".

The Legacy Foundation has reportedly also agreed a deal to develop a scheme in the London Borough of Newham.

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