We promised you an update on our involvement in the MMU selection process once a decision had been made on a preferred developer for Ryebank Fields. MMU has recently announced its decision to appoint Step Places and Southway. You can read more about their decision here.
I want to update you with a bit more information on the process and some reflections. In May 2021 we set our general thinking here. The approach involved a sub-group of the CLT Board meeting online with each of the short-listed developers for two hour-long sessions:
- Session 1 (week commencing 21 June 2021) allowed the CLT to set out a summary of our members’ Expectations and Aspirations (set out here) and for CCLT to hear each developer’s outline ideas. The CLT Board Members in attendance reported back to the rest of the CLT Board at our July Board meeting and we then provided a short note to MMU commenting on the challenges the developers faced to align with our Expectations & Aspirations.
- Session 2 (week commencing 11 October 2021), a further round of hour-long slots during which we received presentations from each of the shortlisted developers on their updated approach followed by some quick Q&A. As it was not possible to interrogate all aspects of the Expectations and Aspirations in detail, the CLT assessed each proposal against three essential criteria:
- Scale & Tenure Mix: each developer gave an indication of the total number of properties they proposed to locate on the site and made indicative commitments around the level of affordable housing (rent and shared ownership) and the level of cohousing. Each bidder also provided information on the likely size (no. bedrooms) mix of the properties.
- Eco Standards: although the developers each presented their plans in different ways, each developers’ commitment to a net zero development were clear enough to form a view on their respective merits.
- General Approach /Compatibility: each bidder provided an indication of their proposed approach to community engagement should they be selected. During the course of the sessions, CCLT was also able to form a view on how the teams conducted themselves and how well-placed each developer might be to work with, and respond to, the priorities of the local community during the next phase of the process.
Following the second session we provided a further note to MMU setting out how far each of the developers met our expectations on each of these criteria. We concluded that, although further meaningful improvements are needed to their plans, Step Places / Southway’s proposals were most likely to be able to meet our members Expectations & Aspirations.
This was a time-consuming process that we each undertook in our volunteer time to help improve the quality of the proposed development. In order to participate we needed to respect the confidentiality of the different developers’ proposals in order to preserve the fairness of the process. CCLT Board Members were each asked to declare interests that may affect their involvement in the process in line with our policy and statement here.
The decision to selected Step Places/ Southway was solely made by MMU without any additional input from the CLT.
Overall, we were impressed with the willingness of each of the developers to respond positively to the CLT’s Expectations and Aspirations. Although all the developers still had work to do to meet our expectations, we could see that they had listened to our aspirations and had enhanced their plans between the two sessions.
We were clear throughout the process, that the CLT cannot speak for the whole of the community with an interest in Ryebank Fields and that the appointed developer will need to embark upon a meaningful programme of community engagement once appointed. The plans we saw were simply early-stage ideas and Step Places/ Southway now have a lot of work to do to involve the wider community as they develop more detailed proposals.
Step Places & Southway have already set up a consultation website here Ryebank Fields Consultation and if you would like to be kept updated as the plans progress, you can register https://ryebankfieldsconsultation.co.uk/ or contact them on 0333 358 0502 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
We have not yet had any further contact with Step Places or Southway since the decision was made. The CLT will maintain an interest in the engagement process as it proceeds and will keep members informed about opportunities to get involved as things proceed.