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Cheltenham Borough Council is seeking a development partner(s) to deliver the Golden Valley proposals.
The indicative procurement timetable is as follows:
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The future is golden - Hear from Golden Valley Development’s Project Lead, Tim Atkins

What is in store for Golden Valley Development?

Can you tell me what the Golden Valley Development is?

The Golden Valley Development (GVD) centres around an ambition to build a new community providing thousands of homes and jobs. It will be focused on innovation and growth of the vitally important UK cyber sector. It will work alongside the existing pedigree and knowledge of GCHQ, business and academia that by that nature fosters a culture that puts innovation at its heart . It will see more than 3,700 low carbon homes and over 12,000 high- value jobs created in the coming years.

What is your role for the Golden Valley Development?

I am the Managing Director for Place and Growth at Cheltenham Borough Council (CBC) and the Senior Officer responsible for driving forward the Golden Valley Development for Cheltenham Borough Council and Tewkesbury Borough Council (TBC) and other key stakeholders including Gloucestershire County Council (GCC) and GFirst-LEP.

What will the Golden Valley Development deliver?

The project will deliver an integrated community and campus for the county. Its first output is Cyber Central, which has at its heart the Cyber Innovation Zone, creating an exciting collaboration between big business, small business, academia and Government. Bringing together the brightest minds in this fast- growing sector will create a pioneering environment not seen before in the UK, enabling us to scale-up and take a key role in the nation’s ambition to be a global leader in cyber tech and be seen as a scientific superpower.

We intend that the Cyber Central Innovation Zone and associated development will be the first deliverable; growing an area where businesses will want to come and build around the range of attractions and accommodation in the heart of this tech- focused campus feeding into a diverse community.

Why is this needed?

If this country is to maintain its position as one of the safest places to do online business, we need the brightest minds in business and academia to help the Government exponentially upscale. Creating a pioneering environment that nurtures a creative and innovative culture requires the right mix of unique components.

Cheltenham has a compelling multi-layered proposition to take this forward and the Golden Valley Development presents the perfect opportunity and location to do just this. There is a cross-section between GCHQ, the businesses in and around the area and the accessibility of the site, which totals over 200-hectares – a similar size to the City of London and the Olympic Park.

This will help the nation to continue to be a global cyber security leader and it will provide a huge boost to Cheltenham’s long-term productivity, its job market and our ability to attract talent. These are not just our words; research recently provided by HATCH Regeneris shows that Gloucestershire and in particular Cheltenham has the greatest concentration of cyber businesses in the UK outside London (up to eleven times the norm) and has seen sustained sector job growth of almost 50% over the last 5 years.

The Golden Valley Development is a Cheltenham Borough Council project, how does this sit with the rest of the Council’s work?

Our corporate priority is striving to make Cheltenham the cyber capital of the UK as part of an integrated network of clusters across the country . The opportunity that arises from this supports the delivery of other key agendas. It underpins the creation of strong communities, providing high-quality homes and long-term hope for jobs, educational learning pathways, tackling poverty and deprivation and the lack of opportunities that arise. The site is adjacent to some of our communities with greater challenges and higher concentrations of deprivation; so the long-term positive impact should not be understated.

Of particular importance is how this project relates to the climate change agenda. Cheltenham Borough Council has declared a climate emergency and set out a road map for change. We will work with the development partner to bring forward low carbon development, exploring the potential to set new standards. We can influence the housing agenda and how we can link it to existing communities, offering affordable homes for a range of people and looking at ways of attracting and encouraging young and talented people to live here.

How will it support Cheltenham and the local economy?

The Golden Valley Development will attract a wide range of employers and become a honeypot for talent. We have an exceptionally strong record of sustained business and job growth in cyber & digital. Our association with GCHQ, its innovation programmes and the wider sector eco system that has built up in and around Cheltenham is particularly important in creating a mature and sustainable environment for growth. We are confident that the construction of this pioneering and creative environment, through the Cyber Central Innovation Zone and the wider campus will enable us to assist the UK in securing and maintaining global leadership in this sector.

We will create new jobs and start-up opportunities, as well as jobs in associated sectors such as retail, leisure and education; which will have a deep and positive impact on the regional economy.

The HATCH Regeneris Report provides some powerful evidence projecting significant investment for the county through the estimated 12,000 new jobs and an additional 3,000-4,000 new homes.

What does this mean for the local community?

It’s about the creation of hope and opportunities for the next generation. We have the potential of creating something truly profound by creating learning pathways to a wide range of local jobs. With this new development will come investment into existing communities. We can begin to look at new ways to work with schools and colleges to unlock long-term opportunities.

We sincerely believe that in 10 years, people will be able to get jobs arising out of Golden Valley Development offering an alternative to university or moving away, creating opportunities for apprenticeships which can result in well-paid and high- value jobs. If you live around Gloucestershire and Cheltenham, this will be something that will influence everyone, providing the route to diverse career paths linked to this industry.

It’s not just about cyber, there is a wide range of associated opportunities too. But the focal point and jewel in the crown is cyber & digital innovation. If we get this first step right, the rest will hopefully fall into place.

How did the Golden Valley Development come about?

My involvement began just after George Osborne visited GCHQ and in November 2015, he announced the Government’s intention to build two cyber innovation centres - one in London and one in Cheltenham.

It was clear that this was important to Cheltenham and Gloucestershire – but at the time we didn’t fully understand the huge potential. The first step was to take the 200-hectare site adjacent to GCHQ out of the green belt as part of the Joint Core Strategy (JCS), which was confirmed in 2017. This was identified as an employment- led development, aimed to enable the development of the cyber sector and deliver a large number of homes as part of a tech focussed campus.

From that point, we began to better understand the ecosystem. There is an untapped economy that is working in and around Cheltenham and we began to work more closely with many of the businesses in the sector, including CyNam, one of the UK’s leading cyber clusters and GCHQ. We began to explore how we could create something special that would support the mission to be the world’s safest place to do online business. We began to co-create a vision for an integrated community based around creativity and innovation which beca me the Golden Valley Development- home of Cyber Central UK. This vision was then set out in more formal planning documentation as part of the Golden Valley Development’s Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) which has assisted in setting high standards for future development.

You have been successful in gaining funding for the Golden Valley Development - can you tell me more about it?

Our first success was for the £22m Growth Deal Fund which we secured through collaborative work with GFirst-LEP. The bid was for a range of transport infrastructure improvements to make the delivery of Cyber Central feasible from an access and transportation perspective. Gloucestershire County Council is now driving forward the delivery of a vast range of infrastructure work streams that will have a significant impact on movement around this part of Cheltenham. Also, this extends to the impact it will have on the links to the A40, the M5, the park and ride and cycle and pedestrian improvements along with connectivity to the railway station.

In June 2019, our bid to become part of the Government’s prestigious Garden Community programme was announced as successful. This opened the doors to support and funding from Homes England, through the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

In March 2020, just before the first lockdown, as part of the Budget Announcements - Gloucestershire County Council was successful in securing a major funding package of £249M for a full upgrade of the M5 Junction 10, making it an all-way interchange. In the longer term, this has a considerable impact on the Golden Valley Development, improving the junction capacity and making significant reductions on existing network congestion, enabling the accelerated delivery of the project.

Cheltenham Borough Council has put in a significant amount of funding towards the Golden Valley Development and the growth of the cyber and digital community in Cheltenham and wider Gloucestershire. We have been successful in securing funds from the county’s business rates pool to support initiatives that boost growth. This includes the commissioning of the HATCH Regeneris Report and securing specialist advisors to contribute to our wider collaboration including Nick Sturge, Chartered Director and Strategic Adviser (previously Managing Director of Bristol’s Engine Shed) and Reid Derby, Cyber Central Innovation Lead, who have both been invaluable to the development of our wider partnerships spanning across this technical and specialist sector.

What is the view of central Government about the Golden Valley Development? W hy are they supporting it?

One of the key things is that it cuts across a whole host of agendas. It’s not just the Government, but our nation’s ambition. It can play an important role in our Post-Brexit and Covid recovery plans, by supporting the creation of a s cientific s uperpower; a country that attracts and retains talent whilst improving technical skills and long-term resilience.

Cheltenham has one of the country’s largest cyber clusters – CyNam – which plays a leading role in supporting the Department for Digital, Culture, Music and Sport (DCMS) in the development and growth of the UKC3 national cyber clusters. We believe that looking at ways that the local ecosystem and the Golden Valley Development can support the growth and evolution of the UK’s skill and talent base across the country is really important.

There are 20 universities within a 75-minute drive of here and we are close to Bristol, South Wales, Hereford, Worcester, Birmingham and Oxford. This will help to s upport the UK in developing its talent base, strengthening our scientific expertise, delivering high- quality low carbon affordable homes and bringing forward high- value employment and investment opportunities. It will also connect the Development with deprived neigbourhooods, supporting the policy objectives of a number of key government departments such as the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport , the Cabinet Office, Ministry of Housing Communities, Local Government and the Department for International Trade.

We look at the Golden Valley Development as a recovery programme as well and we see it as a 15-minute city. If you draw a 15 min walk / cycle radius around Cheltenham Spa train station, you have easy access to GCHQ, the town centre, Coronation Square and of course the Golden Valley Development. You can also jump on a train and be in Gloucester in 7-minutes.

This connectivity between the station, Golden Valley, the town centre and some of our more deprived neighbourhoods is really important. In terms of supporting the leveling-up agenda – there is a real opportunity as we look to create an integrated smart city with cyber security built into everything from the ground up.

How does the Golden Valley Development fit with the post-Covid economic recovery plan for the local area and the UK?

There is a very strong fit on the basis that it ticks so many of those boxes such as green recovery, job creation and highly sustainable development. We are using public funds to help generate a ripple effect that will draw in significant commercial investment and bring jobs and new homes.

We need to attract world- leading businesses and innovators to help create a range of jobs. Luckily for Cheltenham, many of the international tech giants already have a presence here, so the issue is more about up-scaling. Our aim is to use these opportunities to work with existing communities, schools, colleges and employers to establish pathways for learning, getting jobs and improving the quality of life for people across Gloucestershire, not just those in the immediate vicinity.

How can people get involved with the Golden Valley Development?

They can look on the website, find us on Twitter and LinkedIn or read our quarterly magazine. We’re about to engage with the development partner and one of the first key lines will be how we engage formally with key stakeholders and community groups. We had held back on that due to the pandemic as any form of community engagement has been challenging due to the associated restrictions.

We decided that the best time to start this process was when we had a development partner on board – as we now have something real to engage with people about.

What is next for the Development?

We will announce the development partner this summer. Then, we will enter the process of negotiations to close the contract at the end of the year or start of 2022, whilst commencing community engagement and potentially begin the first steps of the planning process.


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