Chris Oakley looks back at the last 30 years of Oakley Property - Shoreham Waterfront

28th April 2023

To mark our 30th Anniversary I am looking back over the years at some of our landmark deals. I hope this month’s reflection demonstrates how the spark of an idea can start something really big.

Acting for Hyde Group Plc in 2021 we completed the sale of their 120-unit mixed-use scheme at Shoreham Waterfront. We sold all the market sale units within the development throughout the Covid Pandemic, and the scheme was a great success. However, as with many of these regeneration projects, the journey from a dirty, old, contaminated industrial site to this beautiful waterfront development is a long and interesting tale!

Originally, the 7-acre site comprised of nine separate ownerships, and back in 2007 I acted for one of the industrialists who had reached retirement and wanted to sell his factory. I suggested to him the potential of the whole estate for development, as it sat to the north of the then recently regenerated Berkeley Homes Shoreham Ropetackle development. I remember him saying “Well, if you reckon you can get this lot to agree anything together then good luck to you!”.

With my clients permission, I embarked on the challenge of hunting down all the landowners to see if I could convince them to unite and bring the site together as one, so that we could sell for development. This was before the days of Landinsight so it was a time consuming and often challenging process. I managed to corral the various owners, all of whom were very experienced and tough businessmen, and I am sure they would agree they made me earn my money in terms of getting them to agree how the land sale proceeds should be split, but in the end we got there.

We then sold the site to a local developer for £10m. Upon reflection, it wasn’t a scientifically calculated figure, but more a figure that needed to be paid to get my grouped landowners to accept an offer. I also managed to get them all to agree to use one lawyer: David Barling of Dean Wilson. David had a great reputation for working quickly on complex deals and I needed his support to ensure that all nine landowners stayed united. It was rather like herding cats, as soon as I had one lined up someone would break ranks and say their site was more valuable than the others!

I will never forget the day I was at Brighton Racecourse waiting for the call from David to say we had exchanged the deal, only for him to call and say we have a big problem; Mr X won’t sign and has pulled out! It went very quiet for a minute, followed by David saying, ‘Only joking I have all nine of them in my office and we have just exchanged!’. I often remind David of what a great comedian he was at the time…

I spent the next year or so working with the purchaser to help them secure planning, but unfortunately the financial crisis struck, and around 2010 their bank foreclosed on the site before they could secure any planning permission. I was then appointed by the funding Irish bank to advise them on the sale of the site, and it was agreed they should first secure planning permission. A number of years passed and NAMA the Irish debt recovery agency stepped in. They eventually secured planning for the scheme in 2014, in the form it has now been developed out today by Hyde.

Having advised the bank, I wasn’t fortunate enough to get retained by NAMA to sell it for them.  However, determined to deliver this scheme I managed to acquire the site upon behalf of Hyde for just over £5m in 2015. I vividly remember a conversation with the NAMA’s Administrator when I convinced him this was a cash purchase, it could happen quickly, and that Hyde were a blue-chip covenant and he should grab this deal ahead of the others in front of him for consideration. In the end he saw sense and agreed to proceed with Hyde.

We were then retained as the sole selling agents and formed part of the development delivery team, providing consultancy services upon the form of the development mix before and through the build process.

Hyde decided not to build out the entire scheme. In 2020 we agreed a deal for Cross Stone to acquire the convenience store, restaurant and two vacant plots, which we are now managing for Cross Stone through the planning process, and we are looking to deliver a further circa 34 apartments and 7 houses on these sites.

I hope this tale demonstrates our dogged determination as a company in finishing what we start. I am very proud of Shoreham Waterfront and how well it sold through Covid from our Shoreham New Homes office. I hope it demonstrates the value of agents in the development process, when the spark of an idea can lead to such a major regeneration project as this.

For more information on our development consultancy services contact our Land & New Homes team on: 01273 688881


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