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Global cyber centres + The Golden Valley Development

The upcoming Golden Valley Development will create a home to the UK’s flourishing cyber sector, supporting the National Cyber Security Centre’s mission of making the country the safest place to live and do online business. Ultimately, it will become one of the globe’s internationally recognised cyber hotspots.

At its heart will be Cyber Central, the UK’s new hub for the cyber, digital and creative sectors. The innovation centre within Cyber Central will create a place where small and large businesses, as well as those with an interest in cyber, can collaborate and make new discoveries in the fight against cyber crime. The centre will generate new employment opportunities and create a requirement for a broad skills set, helping to streamline the region’s talent pipeline and in turn address the country’s digital skills gap.

The UK has always been a major player in global tech developments and cyber has become of paramount importance as the use of technologies becomes more widespread and more businesses and education centres attempt to secure their confidential information.

While we might be amongst the leaders when it comes to cyber security, with the UK being the fifth most secure country for tech, we are also part of the global cyber landscape and this market is predicted to reach $539.78/£453.56 billion by 2030.

The need for support in the cyber tech sector across the world is expected to grow, especially since the digital landscape has changed and is now more active than ever before. In turn, the number of attacks has increased resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent nation altercations. Each cyber centre from across the world makes up the wider cyber ecosystems, where a diverse range of participants all exist to form a collective force.

In this article, we explore the leading cyber centres from across the globe and the Golden Valley Development’s role within this ecosystem.

Where are the world’s leading cyber centres?

We start off with San Diego. You might think of San Francisco’s Silicon Valley as an obvious international cyber hotspot, but this is another Californian city creeping up on its title. It is home to the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, a key piece of military infrastructure that attracts some of the hottest cyber talents in the country. The area now has over 150 cyber-focused companies calling it home, including Sentek Global and Attack IQ.

Cork might be Ireland’s second city, but when it comes to cyber security it is showing the rest of the country how things can, and should, be done. The city was home to Apple’s first European site in 1980, followed by Dell in 1998, but in more recent years, Dublin has established its name as an Irish tech centre of excellence since welcoming a Facebook headquarters into its fold. However, Cork’s cyber centre is really coming into its own, with McAfee, Trend Micro, IBM, and AT&T’s cyber security HQs now based in the city.

The East Coast of the States might be better known for its Fintech, but Boston’s tech centre is world-renowned. Home to MIT and Harvard, it is no surprise that some of the country’s, and the world’s, best tech talent can be found here. Secure password provider SQRL, security analytics company Rapid7, and defence contractor Raytheon bring in millions of dollars and reams of engineers every year to Boston’s roster.

Software service Check Point, compliance-focused Forescout, and even a cyber incubator, Team8, are based in Tel Aviv. Its universal military service may have attracted tech companies and engineers to the city, but its output reaches much further. Its ad-tech community also deserves an honourable mention as an emerging trend in tech.

Australia might not be top of mind when it comes to leading tech centres, but they shouldn’t be overlooked. The Government is investing in national cyber security as a response to increased attacks that have been witnessed globally. This includes three new cyber innovation centres in Queensland, which we know is a state not a city, but the investment in this region was worth a mention. Based in Brisbane, Townsville, and the Sunshine Coast, these centres look set to rival Canberra’s Australian Cyber Security Centre.

These examples provide a point of reference at the start of a journey to understanding what makes a successful centre of cyber excellence, as well as how they are unique. In turn, all these centres are working together as part of the greater ecosystem, helping to prevent cyber attacks and protect countries from harm.

How the Golden Valley Development will support global cyber innovation

Through the Golden Valley Development, the home of Cyber Central UK, we will reach out and collaborate with other leading global institutions to support them in their mission, whilst establishing Cheltenham as an innovator on the world’s stage.

Cheltenham’s cyber scene has become internationally significant as shown by recent developments worldwide. Last year, CyNam and 14 of the town’s most innovative companies attended Slush 2021, in Helsinki, Finland, which brought together global founders, investors, executives, and media. Commenting on the importance of the ecosystem’s inclusion in the event, Tim Atkins, Managing Director for Place and Growth at Cheltenham Borough Council and Project Lead at the Golden Valley Development said:

“At the event, there was great excitement about what was going on in Cheltenham and the region as a whole. In recent years, we have been gaining visibility with the Golden Valley Development being recognised nationally and internationally and that is a real achievement for Gloucestershire.”


Great things are happening in Cheltenham’s cyber tech sector and you could be part of it. If you would like to find out more about the project, please visit our website. For any other questions, contact us 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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