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The Countesswells Conundrum: All you need to know as Aberdeen’s ‘new town’ is plunged into doubt

CDL, responsible for managing the Countesswells development, has gone into administration.

Countesswells has been rocked by the news that CDL, the firm responsible for the new town, has gone into administration.

Since work began in 2015, 900 homes have been built in the community, which is hoped will be home to around 10,000 people if it is completed.

However, the company’s collapse has cast doubt on future projects with more than two-thirds of the development yet to be built.

We exclusively broke the news yesterday – and now we explain what it means for you.

What is Countesswells?

Countesswells is a new town on the western edge of Aberdeen, the brainchild of housebuilding tycoon and former Aberdeen FC chairman Stewart Milne.

He previously claimed his vision for the site was 30 years in the making, with planning permission ironically approved in the wake of the 2008 financial crash.

Mr Milne claimed it would help make the north-east one of the “best run and wealthiest regions in the UK”.

CDL manages the site and sells off chunks of land to separate housebuilders such as Barratt, Dandara, Kirkwood and Chap – alongside Mr Milne’s own firm Stewart Milne Group.

Countesswells is the brainchild of building tycoon Stewart Milne.

Why has CDL gone into administration?

Bosses at CDL blame the impact of the oil and gas downturn, as well as the Covid-19 pandemic – events they claim have had a “seismic” effect.

In 2015, the UK Government committed a guarantee against £86 million of loans for the new town to ensure lenders would be repaid.

However, it’s understood ministers have now withdrawn their support for the scheme.

What does that mean?

The Treasury put the guarantee in place after the financial crash as part of a nationwide £3 billion scheme for housebuilders.

It was designed to ensure those lending money to developers would be repaid.

However, although it is understood those who are already due money will still be paid, there will not be any more cash made available from Westminster.

My new house is being built there – will it still go ahead?

In a word, yes.

CDL, which is wholly owned by Stewart Milne Group, was set up to manage Countesswells, and sells parts of the land to separate housebuilders.

That means projects which are already under construction will not be affected.

Executives at CDL say “all existing construction work will continue”, and insisted they will co-operate with administrators “to ensure the vision is realised”.

Will more houses be built there in the future?

We don’t yet know.

Bosses at CDL say they are committed to seeing the development through to its conclusion, but the company’s collapse into administration means there is uncertainty over the sections of the development it still controls – those which have not yet been sold on to developers.

Administrators FRP Advisory say they will “work closely with the various stakeholders on the future development of the site”, but it’s not yet clear what that will look like.

What about the new school? Wasn’t that in trouble too?

It was at the heart of a row over developer contributions, and was originally meant to open this year.

Building work on the new Countesswells Primary School will begin next week.
Work has begun on the new primary school at Countesswells.

At a meeting held in private because sensitive financial information was being discussed, councillors agreed any delays to the project were the fault of CDL.

However, work on the facility began earlier this month and Aberdeen City Council is said to be confident it will be completed in time for its revised 2023 opening date.

And the other facilities?

The Sainsbury’s store has already opened, while construction work has begun at Aldi meaning there are no concerns over those.

But uncertainty remains over projects such as the second primary school, the academy and community facilities which are scheduled to be built at Countesswells.

What’s next?

FRP say their immediate aim is to protect work that is already ongoing at the site.

Beyond that, it’s not yet clear what the future holds.

Around 900 homes have already been built – but the plan is for more than 3,000, meaning two-thirds of the development is still up in the air.

Exclusive: Thousands of future homes at £800m Countesswells ‘new town’ in jeopardy as firm goes bust