Agenda item

Golden Valley Development Project Update

To receive a presentation on progress with the Golden Valley Development Project.

 

Presentation to follow.

Minutes:

Paul Minnis, Director of Major Developments and Regeneration, Cheltenham Borough Council (CBC), provided the Committee with a presentation on progress with the Golden Valley Development Project.

 

Members were provided with an overview of the project and noted that 132 hectares of land had been allocated to the project; CBC owned 50 hectares of that land divided into northern and southern parcels; 3000 new homes, 7500 new jobs and 2 million sq. ft. of commercial space would result from the project; and that the 150,000 sq. ft. National Cyber Innovation Centre would be delivered as part of the first phase of the project.

 

Members were informed that a development agreement had been signed in June 2022 with HBDXF, who would lead on the project, with CBC contributing as a partner.

 

In an overview of timescales for the project, it was understood that the aim was for the masterplan to be drafted by the end of 2022 and that the planning strategy would be submitted by Spring 2023. It was hoped that the first phase of the scheme would then be delivered by 2025. It was understood that a unit to showcase the centre could potentially be set up for meanwhile use.

 

It was noted that a levelling up fund bid for £20million to fund the delivery of the innovation centre had been submitted in August 2022.

 

The Committee was advised as to how the project would promote sustainability, which would include working with the natural landscape and features and providing green and blue space to increase biodiversity gain. The aim was for the project to be net zero carbon.

 

Members discussed the presentation and asked a number of questions of the information that had been provided.

 

One member asked what percentage of the housing build would be affordable, and what the renewable energy provision would be for the scheme. In response, Paul Minnis determined that the affordable housing provision would be 35 percent and that the use of renewable energy would be considered as part of the sustainability strategy, the details of which were still being worked out. With regards to the ambition for the project to be carbon neutral, assurance was given that CBC would ensure the developer was held to account in this area.

 

Clarification was sought as to the involvement of Tewkesbury Borough Council (TBC) in the planning process for the project. In response, it was understood that planning applications would need to be considered by Cheltenham Borough only, however CBC and TBC would be working closely together throughout the whole process.

 

It was confirmed, following a query, that no risks to the scheme had been identified currently, and that the scheme could still go ahead should the levelling up fund bid be unsuccessful.

 

A question was asked about the education provision which would be delivered as part of the scheme. Members were advised that provision for a primary school was being considered, although secondary school provision was being addressed as part of the Elms Park development which would also cover the Golden Valley development.

 

One member requested additional information as to what the National Cyber Innovation Centre would comprise of. It was explained, in response, that the centre would comprise of a mix of government organisations, small start-ups and companies, and academia all focused on the cyber tech sector. The centre would include collaboration spaces as well as some public spaces. Further clarification was sought as to how this would be implemented.

 

It was queried what was being done to ensure that the people who would live in the affordable houses had the skills to work on the site. In response, it was understood that the strategy to promote the development of local skills and talent, as well as links with the local community, was still being drawn up, however an update could be provided at a later date.

 

In response to a number of further queries, it was confirmed that the site would be fully electric; that the developer had submitted for a biodiversity gain of 10 percent; that the detail for highways provision was still being determined; that the intention was for the project to provide enhancement for alternative forms of transport, including cycling; and that the use of rain water harvesting could be considered as part of the project.

 

Simon Excell, Assistant Director of Planning and Economic Development, Gloucestershire County Council (GCC), provided a reminder that the County Council would be a key statutory consultee to the project given its roles in planning, and as education, highways, library, transport, minerals, waste and fire and rescue authority. He queried what engagement CBC had had so far with GCC, particularly given the ambition for the masterplan to be finalised by the end of the year. It was confirmed, in response, that GCC had been extensively engaged with already, including for education provision, and that this engagement would be ongoing.

 

Colin Chick, Executive Director of Economy, Environment and Infrastructure, GCC, queried how the types of organisations using the National Cyber Innovation Centre would be controlled to maintain the focus on cyber tech. In response, it was explained that an occupier strategy had been signed with the developer, and that interest in the site by relevant organisations was already substantial.

 

One member noted that they were yet to see any schemes aimed at preparing young people with relevant skills in Cheltenham. In response, it was understood that the Cheltenham Education Partnership would be working out the detail for school programmes.

 

There were further queries as to whether it would be challenge to submit planning applications by Spring 2023; whether the public would be engaged with on the plans; and whether new jobs would be created as part of the project or would they be relocated. In response it was understood that the aim was for planning applications to be submitted by Spring 2023, not to be considered by the Planning Committee at that time; that the developer was currently working on producing a more detailed public engagement plan; and that it was hoped a high proportion of jobs resulting from the project would be net new.

 

The Committee thanked Paul Minnis for his presentation.

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