Trinity College: cashing in on the Link Road

December 27, 2012 by combehavendefenders


Trinity College, Cambridge, the richest Oxbridge college, stands to make a huge profit from the Link Road.  It owns much of the land around north east Bexhill which Rother District Council has earmarked for a ‘major urban extension’.  Without the Link Road this land could not be developed and would remain the tranquil countryside it is at present.  Through one of its development companies, Trinity has aggressively pursued a strategy of trying to persuade the council to allow as much land as possible to be developed (see below).

In its ‘North East Bexhill Masterplan, Rother District Council outlines its plans to develop  some 100 hectares (1 km2) of land to the north east of Bexhill, with a mixture of new housing and huge new business parks.  The land is either side of the route of the Link Road as it exits Bexhill, vastly extending the current built-up area.  This photo shows the huge area which will be covered by new developments:

bexhill aerial photo

Most of this land is open countryside; it is described in the Plan as ‘…a rolling and well-wooded countryside fringe defined by a distinctive east-west ridge’.  The Plan goes on to elaborate on this land that will soon be under concrete: ‘… the landscape features woodland, hedgerows, copses, ponds and ditches [and] form[s] part of an important local habitat mosaic. In particular, the abundance of ancient species-rich hedgerows, some with specimen trees, provide habitats for a wide range of birds, small mammals and invertebrates, as well as flight lines and feeding routes for bats. They also host a variety of significant plant species. North to south running hedgerows, which link to the landscape beyond, are most important….As well as bats, there are other protected species, notably badgers, as well as dormice in the area.’

Policy BX2 states that the area to the east of the Link Road should provide:

  • at least 980 dwellings
  • some 22,000sqm of business floorspace
  • a neighbourhood centre

To the west of the Link Road, Policy BX3 provides for:

  • some 26,000sqm of business floorspace
  • at least 130 dwellings
  • structural open spaces, landscape and woodland belts

In other words, this ‘important local habitat mosaic’ will in due course be covered with over 1,100 houses and 48,000m2 of business space. 

Optimistically, the council states that ‘Such a major development, incorporating a mix of land uses, offers tremendous potential to achieve a high level of sustainability’.  They’re keen to ‘place sustainability at the heart of development planning’, by ‘reducing the need for use of the car’ and ‘fostering bio-diversity’.  How that equates with supporting a new road which will cause an overall 14% increase in traffic, and concreting a vast area of countryside, is not made clear.

In the longer term (up to 2026), Rother has plans for a total of 3,100 – 3,300 houses, including a further planned urban extension to the north of the town.

Cui Bono?

Clearly there is a lot of money to be made from this huge new development.  Rother council has set up the ‘North East Bexhill Development Group’ of ‘key stakeholders’, including landowners and developers; the full list of members is here.  One organisation hoping to cash in is Trinity College, Cambridge, already the richest of all the Oxbridge colleges.

Trinity College and the Link Road

Trinity College owns nine separate registered companies, most of them property development companies.  Trinity has a landholding alone worth £800 million, and also owns the Cambridge Science Park, the O2 Arena, and a 50% stake in a portfolio of Tesco stores, worth £440 million.

A full list of Trinity’s landholdings can be found here.

All the Trinity companies seem to have the same 2 directors:  Rory Landman, who’s the senior bursar at Trinity ‘running the college’s £700m endowment’ after a career in ‘asset management’ and hedge funds.  The other is Roderick Pullen, a fellow, who’s had a long career as a diplomat.  They all have the same address, Bidwell House in Cambridge.

Bidwells is a property development company which according to its 2011 accounts, is ‘dormant’ and has assets of £1.  How this comes to be is not clear as it has a property website and is clearly functioning.  It’s connected with lots of other companies, all trading from the same address and with same directors.

 Trinity (B) Ltd

The company involved in the link road is Trinity (B) Ltd.  Bidwells is acting on behalf of Trinity (B) in all its dealings with East Sussex County Council.  Trinity B owns ‘a large part’ (according to them) of the land which is going to make up the proposed housing and industrial developments to the north of Bexhill.  According to their list of landholdings, they own 109 acres (44 hectares) of land around Bexhill; whether this is all land which will be required for development is unknown.

From their accounts for last year, Trinity (B) had a turnover of £14,700 on assets of £1.75m.  We’d like to hear from anyone who can explain those figures.

Bidwells, acting on behalf of Trinity (B), put in an objection to the compulsory purchase order for the road in 2009; on closer inspection this was not because they were anti-road but because they objected to the route.  They said that an alternative route would require less land take and that more land was being acquired than was necessary for construction of the road.  It may be that their objection was because they would get more money for their land as part of a housing development than as part of the compulsory purchase for the road.

The land and properties owned by Trinity in Bexhill are listed on their website as:

Bexhill, 109 acres land
Bexhill, Worsham farmhouse
Bexhill, Mt Resevoir
Bexhill, Pt Worsham farm
Bexhill-on-sea, Worsham cottage

Bidwells, acting on behalf of Trinity B, put in a huge number of comments/objections to the Rother Council consultation on development strategies for Bexhill in 2008.  Here are a few of them, with possible interpretations:

Objection  (Rother shouldn’t commit to a new country park at Pebsham and should wait and see if it’s financially viable.  Trinity (B) objects to the conclusion that further expansion of the North East Bexhill area compromises the strategic gap with Hastings)

Objection (Rother shouldn’t set ceiling on number of houses)

Objection (greenfield land should be released for housing in advance of construction of the link road)

Objection  (housing development should be allowed to start in advance of start of link road)

Objection   (even more development should be allowed than in the plan)

Whatever East Sussex County Council would have us believe about congestion on Bexhill Road, and job creation, it is clear that the road is not for the benefit of local people.  It is for the benefit of rich landowners and property developers, who are intent on destroying our countryside in order to increase their profits.

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