Nene Waterfront could be first task of new £25m backed trading arm to be set up by Fenland District Council

FLASHBACK: Original housing plans for Nene, Wisbech, that were first put forward well over a decade

FLASHBACK: Original housing plans for Nene, Wisbech, that were first put forward well over a decade ago. Quite how it will turn out now is debatable but Fenland Council believes it can build up to 100 houses there to finish it off. Picture; FDC - Credit: Archant

Fenland Council is to use its own reserves and borrowing to create a £25m fund to turn a profit through a newly formed trading arm.

It will focus on not only buying and leasing properties but may use some of its own spare land to build on.

The council says that taking on the Nene waterfront regeneration project in Wisbech - a victim of the 2009 housing slump - could be its first mission.

"This site could deliver 80-100 new homes and is already owned by the council," says a report produced by chief executive Paul Medd and a team of officers.

They point out the site is easy to access and service, key infrastructure is in place and could be developed quickly.

"Cabinet are therefore requested to support this recommendation and authorise the development of a fully costed business case to be brought forward for consideration as appropriate," says their report.

"This site would then form a significant part of the LATCo (local authority trading company) initial business plan if taken forward."

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Councillors are being told of the proposals that will be one of the major tests of council leader Chris Boden who took over last year.

Mr Medd highlighted the need for additional income following reductions in revenue support grant from the Government and through business rates.

His report says Fenland has come up with £10m of savings to offset these reductions but it is to the future they are now looking.

The report adds: "Whilst we have met the savings challenge to date, our journey isn't over. We believe that at least £1.6million of further savings will need to be delivered by 2023/24 and each year large cost reductions become increasingly harder to identify and deliver."

The new trading arm will also focus on regeneration, building on the work already undertaken in Wisbech such as 24 High Street and 11/12 High Street.

If agreed it is envisaged that the LATCo will commence trading by April.

It will have its own corporate structure with an elected member purely on the board in an "observational capacity".

The report says that the council is in a strong financial position to acquire property due to their ability to access capital coupled with the low cost of borrowing.

"It is also worth noting that Fenland District Council does have available cash and reserves which are currently producing relatively low returns," says the report.