Asset management strategy


Asset reviews

There is an expectation that the public bodies responsible for the use of resources will continuously challenge its use of resources, and this council has instituted a programme of reviews of its operational property portfolio, which is used to deliver services.

Property can be an expensive drain on both capital and revenue budgets, and is generally slow to change. It is essential that organisations like ourselves have the right type of premises in the right locations, and, ideally, accommodation must be sufficiently flexible to be able to be adjusted to the changing needs of the service market. It must also be used as efficiently as possible as vacant or under-used space is an expensive waste of resources.

Funding our capital programme

As referred to earlier, in October 2014 our Cabinet established an important overarching principle linking the function and purpose of this strategy with our capital programme. In particular, Cabinet resolved that as a first resort, we will seek to fund our future known capital programme needs through the annual asset management planning process by the identification of land or property in its ownership that is capable of, and appropriate for, disposal.

The capital receipts generated from any disposal of these assets will therefore fund the works or schemes identified in the capital programme which in turn assists us to achieve our corporate and service objectives.

Local plan

On the 5 March 2014 we agreed a timetable for a joint local plan to be prepared in partnership with Stoke-on-Trent City Council. This plan identified how much new land was required to supply our community's development needs over the next 15 to 20 years, and in which locations, to help ensure the borough and City of Stoke-on-Trent achieve sustainable economic growth.

The evidence base for the joint local plan was prepared beginning with a call for sites exercise, which took place in autumn 2014. We, as a landowner, participated in this process so that the local plan would help to determine the most appropriate use of the land identified. Key documents which started to assess the sustainability, suitability and deliverability of potential sites, including those submitted as part of the call for sites, would include a new employment land review (ELR),) and an update of the strategic housing land availability assessment (SHLAA) 2013-14.

Once the housing and employment evidence was in place, consideration would be given to whether there was enough land available to meet the borough’s needs for new housing, employment land and jobs before final draft targets were identified. Different plan options to deliver these targets would then be developed and tested through further sustainability appraisal and full public consultation towards the end of 2015. Draft site allocations would be subject to full public consultation in 2016 and the final joint local plan was expected to be adopted in 2018.

Disposal programme for under-utilised assets (to fund the capital programme)

Operational service requirements

Each year operational managers are challenged to ensure that any underutilised or surplus space is identified and, where appropriate, allocated for potential alternative use or disposal. This approach is consistent with the objective of disposing of land or property for which there is no strategic, financial, operational or other public interest reason for retention. Notable disposals in 2014-15 included the sale of a former playground and retail/office premises where the upper floors required significant expenditure.

Identification of potential sites for disposal

An assessment of all land we owned was ongoing to continue to identify land that was considered to have a better alternative use. These sites fall into one of the following categories:

  • brownfield sites not required for operational use
  • greenfield sites that do not form part of the green space strategy
  • sites identified in the green space strategy that are considered to have a better alternative use (i.e. not required to fulfil the objectives of the strategy)
  • sites identified in the current playing pitch strategy where there is no local demand or business case for retention
  • sites identified in the green space strategy which form a small part of a larger site and the removal of which would not adversely impact on the function or enjoyment of green space

The asset disposal process is required to fund our capital programme. The current estimated funding requirement for the next three financial years is about £14.5 million.

Appendix 1 set out a list of sites, with an update on the current position, which Cabinet have approved for disposal. These sites were listed in appendix 1 of the last the asset management strategy 2014-2017.

Appendix 2 (tranche 3) set out further sites which have been identified as land which fulfils one of the above criteria. They are potential residential and industrial development sites. More particularly at this stage, approval is being sought to explore alternative use or development of these sites.

As set out in the playing pitch strategy section, this should be completed in early 2015 and the green space strategy is to be reviewed (as approved by Cabinet in December 2014). Once these strategies have been completed, there may be sites for which alternative use or development may be sought.

At the time of writing, a final draft playing pitch Strategy was being prepared. It is known that at least three sites will be found to be surplus to operational service requirements (because the use was abandoned at least 10 years ago. Approval is being sought, through the asset management strategy, to explore options for the alternative use or development of those sites as identified in appendix 3.

It is estimated (subject to planning permission being granted, there being no significant abnormal costs and to the sites selling at open market value) that the capital receipts likely to be generated in respect of the sites listed in appendices 1, 2 and 3 was in the region of £16m.

Call for sites - response to the local planning authority

At Cabinet in November 2014, members approved a list of our owned sites to be submitted to the local planning authority following its request for sites through the 'call for sites' which have the potential to satisfy demand for future housing, employment and other needs (including recreation and leisure). The call for sites seeks to identify a wide range of sites in order that a criterion-based assessment can be used to determine the most appropriate and sustainable land uses for such sites.

It is important to distinguish our role as a landowner from our function as the local planning authority. This strategy deals with land or property matters on behalf of ourselves as a land owner. By responding to the call for sites, it is inviting the local planning authority to consider the suitability of our sites alongside those promoted by third party land owners, with the aim of the process determining the most appropriate use for the land. Cabinet has not approved the disposal or redevelopment of these sites it has merely submitted a list of sites for consideration by the local planning authority.

Equally important is the need to acknowledge at this stage of the local plan process that consideration of sites as part of the call for sites process does not mean they will be allocated for the desired use.

Master plan of land to the west and south of urban Newcastle (including the former Keele Golf Course)

As part of our response to the call for sites it has been agreed that a number of sites around the urban fringe of Newcastle should be the subject of a comprehensive master-planning process so that the most appropriate future uses can be identified for the wider area including any infrastructure requirements. In view of the green belt nature of these sites it is envisaged that the master plan will assist the local planning authority in considering the most sustainable form of development and land use.

Consultation arrangements on future land disposals

The primary purpose of the consultation on potential land disposals is to identify any physical, technical or other constraints that might affect the scope/opportunity for alternative use or development being pursued. The outcome of such consultation exercises, taken together with desktop technical assessments, allows us as a landowner to consider the latter approach. Importantly it is considered that the town planning processes (local plan and planning applications) should consider the appropriateness of land or property being developed or used for alternative purposes rather than us as the landowner making potentially subjective judgements.

A consultation process was been carried out over a 6 week period in respect of the tranche 1 and 2 sites. This involved:

  • ward councillors being notified prior to the start of the process
  • notices being placed on site
  • the adjacent property owners being notified along with the parish or town council, where relevant

This arrangement is considered to be generally proportionate and appropriate to the majority of land sales and it is proposed that this approach will continue for the foreseeable future.

There will however be some circumstances in respect of certain disposals, such as the disposal of disused public toilets, where a public consultation process will not be necessary or may be scaled to a more proportionate level. Other examples could include land or property where the future use is consistent with the present use (for example, a shop premises in a shopping parade) where there is unlikely to be any public interest at stake. The approach to consultation in each case will seek to ensure that any public/stakeholder consultation is proportionate to the particular disposal.

Car parks

In view of our aspirations for strengthening the town centre economy it will be important to keep the town centre car parks under review with a view to either optimising their use or to facilitate regeneration.

There are approximately 35 non-fee paying car parks. Some are attached to operational or recreational facilities whilst others are used as neighbourhood car parks. A review should be undertaken within three years to assess the usage, maintenance cost and general overheads of these assets.

Commercial portfolio

The commercial portfolio (including the market) in 2013-14 generated a gross income circa £1.2 million and provides business accommodation for over 200 small to medium sized businesses. It is important that the condition of these units is kept under review in order to both protect our income and to ensure that the units are fit for purpose. In addition it is proposed to undertake, within the next two years, a comprehensive review of the commercial portfolio to optimise value for money considerations (as referred to earlier).

Terms have been agreed to dispose of The Square, High Street, Newcastle. This will allow us to realise a capital receipt that will contribute to known demands within our capital programme whilst enabling the prospective purchaser to pursue investment in the property. The loss of annual rental income will however need to be mitigated.

The first and second floor offices of council-owned properties in Hassell Street and Brunswick Street, Newcastle, have been unoccupied for a number of years. Both premises require substantial refurbishment prior to reoccupation These assets along with the ground floor retail premises are in the process of being disposed of. As with The Square, the capital receipt will contribute to our capital programme whilst the loss of annual rental income will require mitigation on the revenue budget.

Community centres review

Cabinet, at its meeting in December 2014, agreed to the establishment of a Cabinet panel which will have delegated decision making powers to review and modernise community centre provision. There are currently 15 such centres with the borough.

The aim of the review is to develop options for the long term sustainability and management of the community centres in partnership with the community and voluntary sector and to review the management arrangements linked to these options and implement the proposals. To date, six of the community centres have expressed an interest in entering into a lease arrangement thus reducing our ongoing maintenance liability, whilst allowing the management committees greater freedoms to pursue external funding.

Partnership and collaborative working

Public sector GIS based database

Staffordshire County Council, working in conjunction with ourselves and the other district authorities, have developed an intranet database which holds the land ownership details of all the councils and other public bodies such as police and fire authority etc. In addition, the County Council is in the process of formalising a strategic partnering arrangement with a private sector organisation with the aim of providing greater focus on the strategic management of its property portfolio. Both of these actions should provide opportunities for us to manage our own property assets more effectively and it is expected that further information will emerge over the next twelve months in this regard.


We continue to work with various partners to bring about the regeneration of various sites throughout the borough. From time to time such projects involve land in which we has an interest. In such cases the primary aim is to facilitate the delivery of the scheme whilst ensuring that we achieve 'best consideration' for disposal of our interest.

Newcastle town centre redevelopment

In 2011 we, in partnership with Staffordshire County Council, purchased the former Sainsbury's supermarket premises in order to assemble a site for a comprehensive retail-led regeneration scheme in the Ryecroft area of the town centre, which will contribute towards broader regeneration objectives within the town.

During 2014, formal marketing of the Ryecroft site was undertaken by our retained specialist retail consultants, on the basis of a disposal by way of a long term ground lease. The selection process is nearing completion following in depth analysis of three shortlisted bids. At the time of writing, the outcome of the marketing process was due to be reported to members (December 2014) and approval sought to the nomination of a preferred bidder.

The potential 'core' development site includes the current Merrial Street civic offices and work on a full business case, modelling and costing of options for the re-provision of this accommodation is on-going. The target for finalising this work and negotiation of a development agreement for Ryecroft is mid 2015 at which time both will be reported for members' consideration and approval to proceed.

Demolition and site clearance of the former Sainsbury's store was completed in the summer of 2014 in preparation of its redevelopment. A short-term licence was granted to enable a Christmas-related activity to make use of the former store part of the site during November and December 2014. The remainder of the site is being used for car parking purposes during this interim period.

Newcastle town centre public realm

We worked in partnership with Staffordshire County Council to complete a long standing major project in the town centre in 2014. The final elements of work were to close Hassell Street to through traffic in the daytime and re-pave the High Street intersection to enhance pedestrian flow in this area. Additionally, new market stalls (with attractive permanent canopies) have been placed on site in a new alignment to follow the pedestrian flow and create safer access for market traders to load their vans. The overall impact has been that the market is now a more attractive destination in the town centre and we have seen an increase in interest from traders wishing to trade on the market.

Shared accommodation/public sector hub

We currently share accommodation with our public sector partners examples of which are listed below:

  • civic offices is shared with Staffordshire County Council, Staffordshire Police and the Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Partnership Trust
  • Kidsgrove Town Hall is shared with Staffordshire County Council, Staffordshire Police and Kidsgrove Town Council
  • part of the Guildhall is being used by Staffordshire Police as their enquiry office

Our officers are in the process of working with key partners to prepare a full business case for the relocation of the civic offices in order to facilitate the comprehensive retail-led redevelopment of the Ryecroft area. The preferred location for the new civic hub is the former St. Giles and St. George's School.

Facilitating development of community assets

Below are two examples where we have facilitated enhancement of important community facilities:

  • disposing of part of the former Knutton Depot to Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) to enable the construction of a community fire station at Knutton Lane, Newcastle
  • disposing of land at Loggerheads to the SFRS to facilitate the construction of a community fire station

Funding and investment strategy

In the current economic climate and following the strategic spending review, government funding for council projects (for example the Renew housing project) has been severely restricted and in some cases stopped. Consequently we, along with others, are having to generate funding from other sources one of which is through the disposal of assets which no longer support service delivery. The capital receipts from these disposals will allow us to develop an investment strategy to deliver our capital programme needs (which is aligned with communities' needs and requirements).