Dargavel is a 954-hectare (2,357 acre) brownfield redevelopment project led by BAE Systems, one of the largest defence companies in the world. It is a large-scale development that is expected to deliver 4,000 new, for-sale and affordable homes in several phases over a 30-year period. The bulk of these will be family homes, with some smaller apartments and specialist housing for older people. The Dargavel development demonstrates the importance of collaboration, masterplanning, and upfront finance for infrastructure to unlock development land.
The land under development was the site of the former Royal Ordnance Factory, which operated during both World Wars and continued to produce propellants for munitions until the late 1990s. Its closure in 2003 left a significant area of brownfield vacant land at the edge of Bishopton, Renfrewshire. In the early 2000s, Cass Associates conducted a feasibility study on behalf of the landowner (BAE Systems), Renfrewshire Council, the Scottish Executive (as it was at the time), Scottish Enterprise, and trade unions, to determine the future of the site. The study looked at how to regenerate the site and recycle the land in a way that was both cost effective for the landowner and beneficial to the public. The original plan was for BAE Systems to hand over a decontaminated site, in a phased manner, to the development partner Redrow Homes. However, as a result of the global financial crisis and recession, Redrow Homes withdrew from Dargavel. In the absence of an alternative development partner, in 2011 BAE Systems decided to begin investing in land remediation works and major infrastructure provision itself.
Upon completion of the feasibility study, Cass Associates, acting as agent for BAE Systems, took forward the preferred option and developed a masterplan for 250 hectares (618 acres) of core development comprising of 2,500 homes and 15 hectares (150,000 square meters) of commercial space within a business park. The approved masterplan also includes a community woodland park; recreational spaces; community facilities; retail and education provision; infrastructure works including a new motorway junction and link roads; improvements to the railway station approach, as well as park and ride facilities; and retention of the existing BAE Systems environmental test facility.
Benefits and lessons learned
In parallel to the local plan process, Cass Associates submitted a number of planning applications to address the future development and regeneration of the site as a whole. Each housebuilder then submitted detailed applications for their own parcels of land obtained from BAE Systems in accordance with a specified design code, which, according to a senior planning official at Renfrewshire Council, has helped to ensure connectivity and permeability, within the development and locally. Some of the early phases of development at Dargavel are now complete: at the time of writing there are seven housebuilders on site with over 2,500 consented units and the new motorway junction, link road and park and ride facilities have all been delivered. The first phase of the new village centre opened at the end of 2019 and illustrates emerging mix of uses on site which could help to promote further social and economic development. However, the percentage of affordable housing appears to fall far short of the expected 25%, so further investigation is required to determine whether or not any of the other consented units includes housing for social and affordable rent, besides those developed by the Council itself.
Find Out More
More detail about the challenges and positive outcomes from this project is included in the full case study featured below, one of five featured in the report Delivering More Homes and Better Places: lessons from policy and practice, which is jointly published by the UK Collaborative Centre for Housing Evidence (CaCHE) and the Scottish Land Commission.