NWDA: no set path for asset disposal

Paul Lakin, director of land and property at the North West Development Agency, said the future management of joint ventures and contracts with developers remains to be decided, following a statement overnight about RDA asset disposal by central government.

On Thursday, business and enterprise minister, Mark Prisk, said the transition from RDA asset control would begin in April 2011 and should be as 'smooth, effective and efficient as possible'.

The NWDA, like all RDAs, had to submit transition plans including those for land and property to government by 31 January, which are due to be reviewed and finalised by April.

Lakin said: "We didn't give a recommendation in terms of 'we think this institution should manage the agency's assets'. What we said was 'we think there is a benefit to be had if land and property are managed as a portfolio.'

"We remain neutral on who should do that."

The options include handing assets to the Homes & Communities Agency, which is not being abolished and shares a geographical footprint with the NWDA, local authorities, the new local enterprise partnerships or centralising control to London.

Lakin added: "There is no fixed way ahead and there are a lot of complex issues involving stamp duty, tax and to whom government assets can be transferred."

The NWDA is due to close at the end of March 2012.

Lakin continued: "We believe there is benefit in having people with local knowledge manage these assets."

The NWDA is contracted to numerous joint ventures, development funding agreements, European Regional Development Fund programmes and compulsory purchase orders with timescales beyond 2012.

The Space Northwest joint venture with industrial developer Ashtenne, for instance, runs until the end of 2015 and pays an annual fixed rate return in excess of £10m to the NWDA. What happens to that money after March 2012 is also up for discussion, Lakin said.

Space Northwest's two largest holdings are the Mercury Court office building in Liverpool and Liverpool Innovation Park on the site of the former Marconi plant on Edge Lane. It also owns numerous multi-let industrial estates around the region.

Meanwhile, the NWDA, which owns more than 30 assets, continues to asset manage its portfolio actively.

There are five disposals going through sale negotiations now, Lakin said, and two were recently completed in Ancoats, although the details were not immediately available.

Lakin added: "NWDA sites have always been and remain available if propositions come forward where there's a viable solution and commercial sense for the disposal."

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