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Rio Ferdinand-backed £400m scheme stuck on hold

A £400m housing scheme backed by former Manchester United footballer Rio Ferdinand has still to get off the ground more than a year after it was due to start, Construction News has learned. 

The project, which was praised by then housing minister Brandon Lewis, aims to build 1,300 affordable homes on a 22 ha site in Houghton Regis, Bedfordshire.

Mr Ferdinand, along with former QPR striker Bobby Zamora and West Ham captain Mark Noble, first unveiled plans for the project at Mipim in March 2016, as part of the launch of their regeneration charity the Legacy Foundation.

At the time, Mr Ferdinand said he had hoped to start on site by early 2017 and for homes to be delivered within a year. 

The scheme also got the backing of Mr Lewis, now Tory party chairman, who said in 2016 that it would “show the way to creating vibrant communities”.

Colliers International, which is advising Legacy, previously said McLaren Property would build the homes.

However, planning permission for the development has still yet to be lodged with Central Bedfordshire council, CN has learned.

A council statement said: “We are still keen to progress regeneration options within the wider context of the Houghton Regis area.

“At this stage, we have no further news from Legacy, but they remain free to put forward a proposal.”

A six-month exclusivity period to work with the council to achieve planning permission ended 15 months ago.

CN reported last June that the plans had been held up due to the complicated nature of the site, which includes two schools.

The proposed scheme, which is being funded by Aviva Investors, includes 546 private apartments, 200 private houses, 400 social and affordable apartments, and 200 social and affordable houses.

The plans also feature a sports academy, a crèche, a leisure centre with a gym and swimming pool, as well as education and community facilities.

The sports academy has been touted as a possible base for the Rio Ferdinand Foundation.

A Legacy Foundation spokesman said it was not commenting “at the moment” on the project. 

The footballing trio are hoping to build a number of social and privately rentable housing schemes, backed by private investors, to help tackle the affordable housing crisis. 

In February it was reported that the foundation has also put forward proposals under a joint venture with Wirral Council as part of its dockside regeneration scheme. 

Aviva Investors, Colliers International and McLaren Property all declined to comment. 

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