In a deal so big it’s attracted the attention of Fleet Street, the American owned asset management firm, a subsidiary of Ameriprise Financial, has snapped up the former aerodrome!
The Dunsfold Deal is believed to be worth £250 million to Trinity College Cambridge, the current owners of the business park where planning consent has been granted to build 1,800 homes + on the airfield – in Phase 1 of what will now, no doubt, be several development phases.
Yet another great British-owned business is being sold off stateside … but, no worries, if the Business Secretary’s happy, why should the hoi polloi of Waverley worry?!
Richard Turncoat – or Turdhill, depending on your point of view – Trinity College’s now not so new Bursar has set aside the College’s reputation for prudence and long-term investment in bricks and mortar – which has made it one of the wealthiest colleges in the land – in favour of the get-rich-quick schemes he’s more comfortable with, coming from a city background. Turncoat was formerly the Global Chief Investment Strategist of BlackRock. On his Linkedin page, Mr Turncoat boasts of being an ‘experienced senior executive with a demonstrated history of working in the financial services industry across fund management, strategy and economics roles …’
Clearly a modest man, old Turdhill!
Quite where this stitch-up leaves the Flying Scot, who knows? Jim McAllister saw the potential in the former BAe site some 20-odd years ago and has fought tooth and nail over the intervening period despite opposition from Protect Our Waverley and the two local Mp’s Annie Milton and Jeremy Hunt to create a future for the site, rather than leaving it steeped in aspic, as some would have preferred.
By the way? Has anyone seen or heard anything of the POW Group lately? Is it still protecting Waverley? If it is – we must have missed it!
McAllister nursed Dunsfold through the Royal Bank of Scotland debacle – when that Bank (the Flying Scot’s first investor) did the dirty on him … not to mention the rest of the country – and pulled the rug off the runway, having run up gazillions of pounds worth of debts, which the Bank planned to pay down by selling the aerodrome out from under their partner, the Flying Scot.
Rather than letting the Royal Bank – which at the time was acting like a buccaneer – scupper his plans, McAllister dug in his chocks, put his money where his mouth was and found what he thought was a long-term investor in Trinity College Cambridge … But then along came COVID … and Richard Turncoat, rather like a bad fairy – we’re not sure which was worse!!
Whether, 20 years down the line, the Flying Scot has the appetite for another turbulent flight or decides to bail out remains to be seen, but the word at Waverley Towers is that the Council is afraid … very, very afraid. And, with hindsight, if the councillors and officers are afraid, local residents should be petrified!
With the Dunsfold development now seriously behind schedule due to Covid – and Bad Fairy Turdhill! – the Council doesn’t have a five-year housing supply, and the planning appeals are stacking up in Waverley’s in-tray as canny, would-be developers, such as Thakeham Homes, are tripping over each other to take advantage of Turdhill’s utter failure to get his chocks away at the Dunsfold Development. Waverley – and its residents – desperately need Columbia Threadneedle Investments to be the stitch-in-time that saves the borough from being overrun by box builders, who care nothing for the environment or the ambience of Waverley and simply want to build ’em cheap and stack ’em high.
Pop along to the other Threadneedle site at the former Hewitts’ Industrial Estate in Elmbridge Road, Cranleigh. Is that an example of what Waverley Planners can expect?
The big question on everyone’s lips – especially the Council’s – is will Columbia Threadneedle Investments persuade the Flying Scot and his team to stay on board and utilise their long-term knowledge of the site and relationships with local stakeholders to give them the head start they need to reap the rewards on their investment or will they want to wipe the slate clean and bring in a new team? Do they have the time to start from scratch? Not really, not with every other would-be developer in the borough looking to steal a march on them by taking advantage of the delays at Dunsfold created by Covid and Turdhill?