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Daedalus waterfront regeneration partner announced

By Chief Correspondent Rob Thomas

REGENERATION of the what is identified as Daedalus waterfront at Lee-on-the-Solent will be in the hands of the recently-formed Daedalus Development Company.

Homes England which owns much of the site has named the company as its ‘development partner’ for what it envisages will be, “the comprehensive regeneration that will provide an economic boost to the local economy through the creation of new commercial and leisure sector jobs, as well as providing much needed housing while protecting and reinvigorating the collection of historic and listed assets.”

The Somerset-based Daedalus Development Company is a joint venture which was incorporated in July last year and involves development advisors MurrayTwohig Development, development management services company Orwell Real Estate and investment company Patron Capital.

‘Vision’ for the historic site

The largely empty and dormant 42-acre site lies south of the airfield and is within the Gosport Borough Council boundary and the Solent Enterprise Zone.

In 2012, the council granted outline planning approval for a mixed-use development comprising 75,000 sqm (gross) employment floorspace, hotel, leisure and recreational facilities, community facilities, and up to 350 dwellings.

The “ambitious vision” for the site announced by Homes England has been designed by master-planner ACME though the 450,000 sq ft (41,806 sqm) now allocated for employment and light industrial space is less than in the outline planning approval.

Daedalus is an historic site having started as a seaplane base in 1917, with the grass airstrip added in 1931. During World War 2, it was heavily involved in the invasion of Normandy.

Constraints on the regeneration plans

This history has generated listed buildings and Conservation Area status – the site contains 6 listed buildings and a further 13 buildings identified by Gosport Borough Council as priorities to be retained and reused.

Homes England states: “Central to the vision is the restoration of the historic buildings, including the First World War hangars that face the Solent. These will act as a catalyst for economic development, a gateway to the project and an upgraded home for The Hovercraft Museum.”

And David Twohig co-founder of MurrayTwohig Development and CEO of Daedalus Development Company expressed his confidence in the ability of the joint venture to deliver.

He said: “We have hard-earned experience in preserving heritage, bringing community benefits and developing mixed-use places, and we will apply that experience, with local community guidance, to make this much-loved site, a vibrant and productive asset for the peninsula and wider region.”

 The Invitation to Tender Guidance Document published by Homes England states the site has sufficient utilities – water, electricity, etc. – to service the development though additional roads and access points will be needed.

Radiation and other contamination ‘hotspots’

But the history of the site also means there has been contamination.

In 2007, an MOD-published – though redacted – HMS Daedalus Land Quality Assessment report concluded: “if the site is to be redeveloped for other uses, especially residential, then some remedial action is recommended to remove minor quantities of radioactively contaminated material.”

Homes England’s ITT Document notes: “Additional radiation surveys were undertaken as part of the infrastructure works. There is one known hotspot which is to the immediate west of Dunning Hangar.”

And in respect of ground conditions, it accepts there are, “localised contamination hotspots as would be expected for a brownfield site of this nature” though: “Remediation of the groundwater contamination has been completed in 2016/17”.

Redevelopment in phases

The announcement of Daedalus Development Company as the development partner does not provide any indication of the estimated cost of the regeneration programme or how long it will take to complete. In its ITT Document, Homes England anticipates, “the development will come forward and be contracted in phases.

“Homes England would encourage a phasing approach where early wins on delivering employment space or to meet other immediate demand can be brought forward while details including planning are finalised for the mixed use element.”

The only public political comment on the announcement came from Gosport MP Dame Caroline Dinenage who said that when she was first elected in 2010 she, “pledged to secure a better future for the site and our area and established the Daedalus Strategy Group.”

And for her, the announcement, “is the final piece of the jigsaw. The long awaited redevelopment of the final, and most complex part of the site, will bring jobs and opportunities to our community.”

Photograph (top): the Daedalus Waterfront site. Homes England, reproduced with permission.