Ownership of the UK’s largest self-build housing project will be transferred to a new company which has been established with the sole purpose of delivering the scheme.
At a meeting of Cherwell District Council’s executive yesterday (Monday, 16 June), councillors agreed to create the Graven Hill Village Holding Company, to be wholly owned by the council and its subsidiary the Graven Hill Village Development Company; the companies will be responsible for delivering housing and growth at the former Ministry of Defence (MOD) site.
The creation of the companies will enable the council to undertake commercial trading activity lawfully via them while retaining control of the site as opposed to selling to a private developer.
Cllr Barry Wood, leader of Cherwell District Council, said: “Under the Localism Act 2011, local authorities can only carry out commercial trading activity through a company. As such, we had to consider numerous options including selling to a private developer, appointing a partner or forming our own company.
“After putting together an extensive business case, councillors have agreed the latter is the best option to ensure our vision is achieved.
“By following the company formation route we will be meeting the requirements of the Localism Act while retaining control of the site. Delivery through a company gives the council the independence to ensure the vision is achieved yet offers the flexibility to bring in additional investment and development partners who want to work with the council to realise its vision. In turn, it will also allow the council to use the profits from developing this site and reinvest them throughout the district.”
The Graven Hill Village Holding Company will be 100 per cent owned by Cherwell District Council. As an umbrella organisation, it will have various subsidiaries beneath it, including the Graven Hill Village Development Company which will focus on delivering the Graven Hill vision of 1,900 self-build homes and subsequent infrastructure across the 187 hectare site.
This will include the creation of up to 2,000 new jobs and apprenticeships across one million square feet of commercial space, a primary school, pub/ restaurant and local shops.
Contracts with the MOD have been exchanged allowing the council to purchase the site and once this sale is completed within the next few weeks, the site will be immediately transferred to the development company. This body is 99 per cent owned by the holding company with the council retaining the remaining one per cent.
The development company will feed into the holding company which in turn will be accountable to Cherwell, its executive councillors and a partnering board consisting of elected members, holding company directors and council officers.
The boards of both the holding company and the delivery company will be comprised of council officers and elected members in unpaid roles.