A perspective on Property Regeneration from Real Developer Michael Chittenden
Q1. Eight years ago, you decided to take on the ambitious project of regenerating a 22-acre Grade II listed site: the Royal Ordnance Depot in Northampton. How did you come across this opportunity and what were the main reasons that convinced you to pursue this project?
Like many of the best deals, this one came from contacts built up over the years. Someone who knew about my love of character, historic sites told me it was available.
The main reason for pursuing it was my love for the architecture and the thought of what I could create here: making the site relevant for today while keeping intact its grandeur and beauty for future generations. Of course, the numbers were important but I worked those out roughly when walking around for the first time. I agreed to buy it at that first visit… looking back, maybe I should have shown less enthusiasm and got the price down, but that isn’t me!
Q2. Can you tell us the three most important things about property regeneration in your opinion? Please expand on how you formed those beliefs as well.
I got into property very early in my career, and my principles of development have been built up over the years – making mistakes as well as scoring successes. You often learn more from your mistakes! I’ve also looked hard at those operators who have done well: not just those that have made money but have created projects they can take pride in.
- Obviously, the numbers have to add up, and my specialism over the years has been seeing new uses for sites and buildings that will do just that – recognising that, with a bit of imagination, you can create value.
- The second point leads on from that: you need to really know the locality – and what sort of demand there is for the new uses you have in mind. So solid research and local knowledge.
- The third point is understanding the planning system and the priorities of local planners. They have a job to do, and you create win-win situations by offering regeneration proposals that fit their criteria as well as your own!