As Michael Gove’s Teesworks Review panel speed-read through their evidence in time for the parliamentary Summer Recess, the names of three characters will no doubt crop up: Chris Musgrave, Martin Corney and Ian Waller.
The three local property developers are the well-known private sector figures behind the Teesworks Ltd joint venture. But there is a fourth man, Chris Harrison. His CV shows how small the North East world of property development is.
In 2020 the South Tees Development Corporation (STDC), a public body established by the regional government Tees Valley Combined Authority (TVCA), entered into a 50:50 joint venture with private interests. The new company, called Teesworks Ltd, was intended as a vehicle to transform the 2,600-acre former SSI steelworks land at Redcar – the largest brownfield site in Europe – into a massive industrial and business park.
The land, renamed Teesworks, will require £486mn of taxpayers’ money to decontaminate. But so far the only beneficiaries are the private interests who have been gifted another 40% of Teesworks Ltd, bringing their share up to 90%.
The concerns about costs, secrecy, oversight, and cronyism have led to the Gove Review that is currently taking place.
The Teesworks Ltd private interests are comprised of just the four men: Musgrave, Corney, Waller and Harrison.
The joint venture has three private shareholding companies: DCS Industrial Ltd (owning 40% of Teesworks shares); Northern Land Management Ltd (25%); and JC Musgrave Capital Ltd (25%).
Just 10% is now owned by the public STDC.
DCS Industrial Ltd is jointly owned by JC Musgrave Capital Ltd and Northern Land Management Ltd
As Musgrave is the sole owner of JC Musgrave Capital Ltd, he personally owns 45% of Teesworks Ltd.
Through their shareholdings in Northern Land Management, Waller and his stepson Corney each own 19.35% of the joint venture.
With his minority stake in Northern Land Management, Harrison owns 6.3% of Teesworks.
Even before the location is operational a lot of money has already been made.
The derelict site is a goldmine of old equipment and metal, and income from the scrap is split 50:50 between Teesworks Ltd and STDC. So far the scrap has yielded £94mn. (Private Eye Issue 1599)
Then there’s £75 mn from the forward sale of a lease income stream, after Teesworks bought 90 acres of land from STDC. The cost to Teesworks was either £96.79p plus vat (according to Private Eye Issue 1600) ) or £15 mn (according to Tory Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen).
If Teesworks Ltd really have to pay out £15mn for the land, we estimate the money already earned by the four businessmen as:
The amounts are before tax on the various transactions.
As for company overheads, Teesworks has no employees and does not pay its directors any salary according to its accounts filed with Companies House. Even Teesworks’ press relations are handled by the TVCA media team.
Teesworks Ltd appears to be little more than a vehicle for moving money.
So exactly who are these beneficiaries of the Teesworks largesse?
Chris Musgrave, who has an OBE and freedom of the town of Hartlepool, is a prolific developer and known locally for building Wynyard Estate, a large garden village near Hartlepool. An enthusiastic Tory, he hosted a fundraiser for Houchen at his mansion.
Ian Waller and his stepson Martin Corney are also leading developers, and aim to build a garden village in the Darlington area. They co-own a number of companies involved in residential properties under their Theakstons brand.
Waller is a keen Tory donor, giving £2,500 to Tory MP Simon Clarke in 2019 after donating £7,000 to Mayor Houchen.
Chris Harrison is more of an enigma. A chartered planner, he was born June 1977.
He is certainly not just a passive shareholder. As well as investing in Northern Land Management, Harrison was appointed a company director there in September 2014. He became a director at DCS Industrial Ltd in February 2022.
He is also a director in four other companies where Corney and Waller also have interests, including the dormant Darlington Garden Village Ltd which is co-owned with Darlington Borough Council.
Harrison has held a 14% stake in Theakston Land Ltd, where he is a director, since 2015.
To track down Harrison’s career background we followed the trail of his chartered planner status. Contacting the Royal Town Planning Institute, we found that there was only one Christopher Edward Harrison with the birth date June 1977, who is a chartered planner in the North East. He is listed as being employed at Lichfields, the trading name of Nathaniel Lichfield and Partners Ltd.
A Chris Harrison also has a LinkedIn page showing his current employment as Senior Associate Director at Lichfields, starting work there in 2000 and working his way up.
But Lichfields informed us that he had left them in 2014. It seems that like most of us Harrison hasn’t updated his LinkedIn profile or professional membership details.
We believe we have enough detail to assume that Chris Harrison, Teesworks director, is also Chris Harrison, formerly of Lichfields. We have reached out to Teesworks Ltd for confirmation.
Harrison’s dealings with Corney and Waller go back a long way. In 2004 he represented Theakston Estates as the Lichfields planner at a Middridge Parish Council meeting to discuss an unpopular proposal for land at Shildon.
While Harrison is long gone, Lichfields has done very well from Teesworks since the project’s inception. In the last four years, Lichfields has filed 108 planning applications with Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council for work on Teesworks land.
Lichfields currently has three live contracts with TVCA, with a total value of £1,190,000.
Lichfields are the largest planning agents in the region. They have blue chip clients like Anglo American and Marks and Spencer. They have also represented Waller and Corney’s Theakston Estates (Investments) Ltd.
It’s impossible to know who the ultimate Lichfields beneficiary of the Teesworks business is. When David Cameron was Prime Minister, the government introduced regulations concerning Persons with Significant Control. Companies now have to declare the controlling interest in their firm.
The Person with Significant Control of Nathaniel Litchfield and Partners Ltd as filed at Companies House is Nathaniel Lichfield Trust Ltd. So who controls Nathaniel Lichfield Trust Ltd? None other than Nathaniel Lichfield and Partners Ltd who, for the purposes of reporting to the authorities, owns itself.
There remain two questions: why would four men who have spent their careers in residential property development, be regarded as the best candidates for regenerating the largest brownfield heavy industry site in Europe, with unprecedented pollution? And why have they been so richly rewarded when the success or otherwise of Teesworks has yet to be seen?
Food for thought for the Gove Review, perhaps.