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Cheltenham Borough Council Officially Appoints HBD X Factory as Development Partner for The Golden Valley Development

  • Cheltenham Borough Council has signed the contract with HBD X Factory to develop the first phase of the £1 billion Golden Valley Development located in West Cheltenham including the 150,000 sq.ft National Cyber Innovation Centre.
  • This development forms a key part of the UK Government’s National Cyber Strategy and Levelling Up plans
  • The entire Golden Valley Development, which is also a DLUHC Garden Community, will create up to 12,000 new jobs, 3,700 homes and 2 million square feet of commercial space. HBD X Factory will deliver the first phase of the expansive new scheme.
  • The Golden Valley Development is a Cheltenham Borough Council project with key partners including Tewkesbury Borough Council, Gloucestershire County Council, GFirstLEP and several Government Departments.

Today, Tuesday 12th July 2022, Cheltenham Borough Council has announced that HBD X Factory has now been formally appointed as the development partner to assist in delivering the first phase of the £1bn Golden Valley Development (GVD) located in Cheltenham at the heart of the UK’s Cyber community.

Since the July 2021 preferred developer partner announcement, the GVD team alongside HBD X Factory, have been focused on achieving contract close which has now been adopted by the Council.

The overall Golden Valley Development, spanning over 200 ha, will provide 3,700 new homes, almost 12,000 new jobs and 2m sq. ft. of commercial space with the National Cyber Innovation Centre at the heart of this thriving campus for cyber and digital technologies. GVD forms part of the UK Government’s Levelling Up plans and features within the National Cyber Strategy as key ‘to supporting the growth of cyber-related technology businesses’.

Following the announcement, HBD X Factory is undertaking a variety of design exercises in advance of a public consultation programme, prior to planning submission, including a masterplan framework for the site and detailed proposals for the Innovation Centre.

Commenting about the official appointment, Leader of Cheltenham Borough Council, Councillor Rowena Hay said:

“This is the largest development that Cheltenham Borough Council have ever embarked upon and shows the scale of our ambitions for the town. Its significance will be far reaching and deliver benefits out to the county, the wider region, nationally and beyond. It will also bring education opportunities, career paths and homes in to residents of Cheltenham now and into the future.”

Tim Atkins, Project Lead and Managing Director for Place and Growth at Cheltenham Borough Council, lead the appointment negotiations:

“The Golden Valley Development is all about collaboration. Bringing together the cyber community with education; transport solutions with Cheltenham Zero goals and high-value jobs with affordable housing. It’s fitting therefore to have signed a partnership agreement with HBD X Factory who each bring their diverse skills together for this pioneering project. The delivery of the National Cyber Innovation Centre will be a magnet for international investment, to drive regeneration and support the UK in its mission to be the safest place to live and do online business.”

The developer search was led by Gordon Isgrove, Avison Young, who launched the tender process at an international level on behalf of Cheltenham Borough Council.

Sustainability will be a key element of the huge new project, which will target Net Zero Carbon. Smart technology coupled with innovative design and MMC will cut energy output and carbon impact across both the residential and commercial elements of the development.

Adam Brady, Executive Director at HBD, said:

“HBD X Factory was formed to deliver world leading districts; the Golden Valley Development is one of the UK’s most exciting - and nationally significant - projects and we look forward to working alongside the council to make the vision a reality.”

Jeremy Bamberg, Co-Founder of Factory, said:

“This is a major milestone. For HBD X Factory, the Cheltenham Borough Council – and the UK. It demonstrates how the property sector, government and the technology community can join forces to promote innovation, economic growth and national security. We look forward to progressing this project together with our partners and the local community.”

The project has received funding from local and national government bodies, including £22 million investment from GFirst LEP to improve transport infrastructure surrounding the Golden Valley Development site. Also, the Council has a further £180 million funding available for the delivery of high-quality homes. £37.5 million was used by Cheltenham Borough Council to fund the purchase of the land alongside £249 million of Government investment being delivered by Gloucestershire County Council.

The project’s success to-date has been founded on strong collaborative working. The site includes the direct involvement of three local authorities Cheltenham and Tewkesbury Borough Councils and Gloucestershire County Council, as well as the strong support of the GFirst LEP.

To find out more about the Golden Valley Development you can contact the team here. To receive monthly news updates, you can sign up for the Golden Valley Development newsletter here.

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About Golden Valley Development

What is Golden Valley Development?

The Golden Valley Development will create a vibrant pioneering Garden Community integrating hi-tech business, residential and leisure uses. At its heart will be the National Cyber Innovation Centre, the UK home of the cyber, digital and creative sectors arising from Cheltenham’s international reputation for leadership in cyber innovation. With a significant development site adjacent to GCHQ in a highly accessible location with great connectivity, the opportunity exists to create a destination of global significance. It will require the highest standards of environmental sustainability integrating exemplar homes as part of a thriving and inclusive campus and Garden Community, defined by its quality in design, public spaces and approach to connectivity both digitally and physically.

What have you been doing since the project was first announced?

Since March 2020, we have been carrying out a staged procurement exercise to identify a suitable development partner to drive the development forward for us and make the vision a reality. In July 2021, we announced that HBD X Factory, a joint venture between HBD and Factory, had been selected as the preferred development partner, with the news that contracts had been agreed and signed in July 2022.

Why was this developer chosen over the others?

The developer was chosen following the competitive procurement process, where suitably experienced developers and innovation operators were invited to submit proposals in line with the vision for Golden Valley that would deliver the Council’s wider objectives and aspirations. The developer, HBD X Factory, scored the highest in this competition demonstrating they have the experience and ability to deliver the Council’s objectives and aspirations.

What are the main features of their proposal?

The main feature of their proposal will be the creation of an Innovation Centre to capture the creativity of the cyber sector, generating and nurturing pioneering thinking and interactions from the brightest minds across the sector from start-ups to large global corporates and the public sector. The scheme will look to set new standards from both a commercial and residential perspective, but concentrating on creating this inclusive campus environment.

What disruption will there be?

The Golden Valley Development will be delivered in phases over a long period of time. Construction work will be ongoing over an extended period – however, disruption to existing communities will be kept to a minimum. There will be delivery and general construction traffic and people working to deliver the project. This should create employment and business opportunities for the local and wider community. We will work with the contractors building on site to minimise disruption to the lives of the local community.

Will the construction traffic clog up our roads?

We will work with the contractors building on site to minimise disruption to the lives of the local community through the planning and construction phases of the development. The completed West Cheltenham Transport Improvement Scheme improvement will improve the flow of traffic and increase capacity.

What traffic routes will the developer use?

Traffic routes will be considered and determined through the planning process leading up to the start on site.

What will happen next?

We will be working with the developer, HBD X Factory to confirm the details of the first phase of the development.

Do we get a say in the proposal and the design?

Yes. There will be a programme of public engagement events leading up to the submission of the first planning application.

What local employment will there be for us?

The Golden Valley Development is aiming to create up to 12,000 jobs in construction and for companies based in the completed buildings. It is intended that the neighbouring communities, as well as wider Cheltenham and Gloucestershire, will benefit from this job creation.

Is there a need for this kind of employment allocation when there is empty office space in town?

While there is a small amount of vacant space in town, there is nothing of the scale and quality we are proposing for the Golden Valley Development, based on the current demand and the future potential.

Will the new start-ups in town be pushed out as tech giants move into the larger spaces?

If anything, the opposite is more likely. As start-ups grow and need more space, Golden Valley will give them that, as well as innovation and networking opportunities, making Cheltenham the ideal place for start-ups to both emerge and grow.

Won’t it take businesses away from the centre of Cheltenham?

We see the town centre locations such as the new Minster Exchange and Hub8, as attractive alternatives, complementary to Golden Valley, and supporting a network of businesses as they grow. The town centre location also suits freelancers and consultants or larger companies looking for short-term project space. This is part of a growing and thriving ecosystem in and around Cheltenham and Gloucestershire.

Why did the council buy the land?

This is a very important project for Cheltenham, and for Gloucestershire, so the council wants to make sure it is developed with the best interests of the area at its heart. Being a landowner allows the council to have more influence over how the land is developed, with the highest aspirations for the site in mind.

Who did the council buy the land from?

The land was bought from private landowners.

How much did the land cost?

The total cost of the acquisition was £37.5m. The land has already been the subject of transport and ecological studies, which will form part of future planning applications.

Why are you planning to build on greenfield land?

We know this area will be built on so it is our job to make sure we get the best possible outcome from it. The land was removed from the green belt as part of the Joint Core Strategy, which was adopted in 2017, when the area was designated for development. Its location on the outskirts of Cheltenham makes it ideal for Golden Valley, the home of the National Cyber Innovation Centre, which is a hugely important project for the local economy. There is not enough brownfield land available for the scale of housing and employment sites we need over the next 10 to 15 years in Gloucestershire, where less than 2% of the total land area is currently developed.

Is there a conflict of interest with the council being both the landowner and planning authority?

No, it is quite common for local authorities to be both the planning authority and lead developer and there are special processes in place to make sure there is no conflict of interest. Any development is still subject to the planning rules and policies and to approval by the planning committee in the same way as any other application.

How do you know it’s viable?

The whole county is behind this project, we know there’s a thriving cyber sector already in Cheltenham and we know what’s needed to help it grow. The unique combination of research and development alongside businesses will give enterprise the best chances of success. This is a major development and overall the project will cost in the hundreds of millions of pounds, representing a massive investment in Cheltenham. Cheltenham Borough Council has covered the purchase of this land and the majority of the project costs with further contributions from GFirst LEP and Homes England to support the infrastructure improvement work needed in the area – including the upgraded junction onto the M5 which Gloucestershire County Council submitted a bid for in Spring 2019 fully supported by Cheltenham Borough Council, Tewkesbury Borough Council and GFirst LEP. Tewkesbury Borough Council and Gloucestershire County Council also provided much need support for the project delivery. Further long-term development will bring more investment from other areas, including private business. Councillors recognised that this was a huge opportunity and that the biggest risk was not taking a controlling interest in order to ensure we develop the site as originally proposed. The due diligence that was undertaken for the purchase decision was based on commercial rates of interest for capital and on independently assessed land values.

You say you want to create a magnet for young people, what about the young people who are already in the county?

Becoming a magnet county isn’t just about attracting talented young people from further afield. Most of all it’s about growing our own and creating opportunities so they can stay and grow in Gloucestershire if they choose to. We see this development as one that will create new opportunities for young people in Cheltenham, across Gloucestershire, and beyond.

Why only cyber?

Cyber is a particular strength for Cheltenham and an area where we are already an attractive location for the industry. It is a case of building on those existing strengths. Our focus is on creating space that will encourage that, though the exact mix of businesses is hard to predict at this stage. It will almost certainly span beyond just cyber and include a wide range of digital and creative activities. There will be opportunities for other businesses, including food and beverage and leisure outlets, local retail and support services (e.g. legal, finance, etc.) as part of the scheme.

How is a business defined as cyber?

Cyber is a term used to describe all kinds of digital innovation. This includes cyber security, where Cheltenham already has a particular strength, as well as associated technological and creative services.

Why do you think it will make any difference to someone who currently lives near the proposed development?

As the site develops over the coming years it has the potential to provide thousands of jobs, both in the initial construction phases and then in the businesses that will occupy the site. It will create accessible green spaces that the community can use for leisure, as well as supporting wildlife. The development will also significantly increase the availability of affordable housing locally.

Is the borough council making money out of it?

In the long term, we do expect to see a return on our investment, which will go back into providing services locally and improving life in Cheltenham. Our commitment is to ensure that Cheltenham is a place where everyone thrives supported by a thriving economy, a thriving cultural offering and thriving communities, and we want all our communities to benefit and prosper from the investments we make. The council is able to access funds at good rates, which allow us to invest with that social purpose as well as expecting long-term income to reinvest in the town.

Will this expose Cheltenham and its residents to a higher threat of terrorism? What preparations are in place for that?

GCHQ has been in Cheltenham since 2004 and is one of the most high-profile government sites in Britain – as such there are well established security plans in place which draw on local and national resources should they be needed. Local partners, including the police and fire service, work closely with GCHQ and the government to make sure that regular testing of the plans takes place.

Will it affect the value of my house if I live in the area?

It is hard to predict how housing prices will be affected but it’s anticipated that the proximity to desirable employment and leisure spaces will improve demand for local housing.

What about junction 10 of the M5?

The upgrade of the M5 junction 10 was a key part of improving access to this area of Cheltenham. Gloucestershire County Council, with the full support of Cheltenham Borough Council, Tewkesbury Borough Council and GFirst LEP, made a bid to Homes England to fund the upgrade of J10 which was successful in March 2020. The £249m award was used to improve access to and from the motorway northbound and southbound to a new link road into Cheltenham along with a package of other network and transport improvements. This will support growth plans both locally and throughout Gloucestershire, as well as help to solve long-standing traffic and travel issues, helping to keep our county moving.

Where will people park?

There will be parking available on site and a strong focus on promoting and enabling more sustainable and active travel options (walking, cycling and public transport).

How will you reduce flood risk?

The area is not identified as being at risk of flooding in the county council’s Strategic Flood Risk Assessment, however, all necessary surveys will be carried out on the land before any construction begins. We plan to use some of the existing watercourses to enhance the site environment.

What about the natural habitats?

We’re keen to protect our local wildlife and as part of the work already completed, ecological surveys have been undertaken. That means that important natural habitats on site are identified and either protected or provisions made to safely relocate them to alternative sites. We plan to develop the site in accordance with the “Building with Nature” standard and the fact that the site has been awarded Garden Community status means that we will be able to draw on additional resources from government. The extra support will allow us to deliver environmental gains; supporting wildlife and biodiversity.

Will there be affordable housing as part of the development?

Yes, this would be a strategic site in terms of planning policies, which requires a minimum of 35% affordable housing provision.

Will housing be for anyone, or only those involved in the cyber industry?

Housing is high on the agenda for local councils and partners. We’re looking at meeting the genuine local need, as well as anticipating people moving to the area for work.

Will there be roadworks?

Yes, but disruption will be kept to a minimum and residents will be notified in advance.

Is it something to do with the JCS?

Yes, the allocated land is referred to as A7 in the Joint Core Strategy and it is a critical part of delivering the necessary housing and employment land both Cheltenham and Tewkesbury need to support the expected demand in the next 10-15 years.

Is it something to do with Gloucestershire College’s cyber academy?

The Cyber Academy is a very pro-active response by Gloucestershire College to the demand that already exists for cyber skills in the county and will continue to grow in the future. The college is well placed to connect with organisations in the Golden Valley in the future.

Is it something to do with the Local Industrial Strategy for Gloucestershire?

Yes, the project builds on the strength of the cyber sector in Gloucestershire, and it is the sector the government is most interested in supporting in our county.

What is a garden community?

Garden Communities are a government initiative which seeks a “vibrant, mixed-use, communities where people can live, work, and play for generations to come – communities which view themselves as the conservation areas of the future”.

Is there an example of this kind of development succeeding elsewhere in the country?

This is a truly pioneering development, but there are some similar examples in the UK of sites that have successfully incorporated businesses, academia, leisure and housing. For example, Manchester Science Park, Harwell Park and Plexal all have some comparable aspects.

Further information and reports from Cheltenham Borough Council website.

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