Eversheds leads UK’s largest ever greenfield development

Eversheds is advising the consortium behind the country’s largest greenfield development. The consortium has now agreed a long-awaited deal with software company Sage and has just signed an innovative electricity agreement with Scottish and Southern Energy. Sage will take an initial 31,590 square metres at the scheme, with an option to expand its presence to 53,420 square metres.
Eversheds’ Birmingham head of property Tim Webb is leading the team advising the Newcastle Great Park consortium with senior associate Lesley Servian. The consortium comprises housebuilders Bryant and Persimmon.
The decision of Sage, advised by Ward Hadaway, to move to the park is a major turning point for Eversheds’ client, ending more than two years of negotiations. The deal was delayed by the slowdown of the tech sector, prompting major concerns among the scheme’s promoters.
Webb said: “This is a flagship business park aimed at high-tech opportunities, that’s why the Sage deal was so significant. It is of critical importance to the North East economy to keep Sage in the region, so there has been a lot of goodwill, both politically and within the consortium, to secure this deal.”
From the outset, the park has faced problems because of its size and greenbelt location. The original scheme was called in by Secretary of State John Prescott in 2000, leading to the withdrawal of the application. Negotiations with the Government then culminated in a new, successful application. The approved scheme includes 2,500 residential units, as well as 185,600 square metres of commercial development.
Since then, the make-up of the consortium itself has changed. In a flurry of housebuilder consolidation at the turn of 2000-2001, Bryant was purchased by Taylor Woodrow, while Persimmon acquired Beazer.
Eversheds won the original instruction on the scheme through its longstanding relationship with Bryant, but subsequently found itself advising a different client with changing personnel as a result of the two acquisitions.
Eversheds has advised on the assembly of the 480 hectare site, on planning, infrastructure procurement, construction and, most recently, an agreement with Scottish and Southern that was signed two weeks ago.
The electricity agreement uses the recently created Utilities Act, which enables out of area competition. “We steared our way through the minefield of the deregulated utilities sector to give an enhanced return on the developers’ investment in the site by bringing in an out of area electricity distributor,” said Webb.