Objective: Detailed look at the possible impact of the site on local residents, and how risks relating to this are being addressed
Martin Chastney (Senior Development Manager)
Gethin Evans (Golden Valley Marketing and Communication Lead Officer)
Paul Jones (Executive Director of Finance, Assets and Regeneration)
Richard King (Construction Manager, Major Developments & Regeneration)
Paul Minnis (Director of Major Developments & Regeneration)
The Chair explained that although this was originally listed as an exempt item, it had been agreed that it would take place in public session as the paper did not contain any commercially sensitive information.
Paul Minnis (Director of Major Developments & Regeneration) began by introducing a number of key officers from the Golden Valley team, namely Martin Chastney (Senior Development Manager), Gethin Evans (Marketing and Communication Lead Officer) and Richard King (Head of Construction). He explained that since the development agreement with HBD x Factory was signed in June 2022, they had mainly been concerned with the southern parcel of the site, which would be the commercial centre, rather than the northern parcel, which would be mainly residential.
The key part of the first phase of the southern parcel was the Innovation Centre, which was in the region of 120,000 square feet but would involve other land uses as well. After the initial phase of masterplanning this year, they had moved onto public consultation, with a concentrated phase of this early next year to inform the completion of the masterplan process, before the planning applications phase. He acknowledged a number of key recent challenges, including interest rates, material costs and inflation, which had pushed the masterplanning and design process on a bit, but they were still targeting next summer to submit the planning applications. A significant planning phase would follow, before they hoped to be on site the following year to deliver the first phase by 2026.
Martin Chastney (Senior Development Manager) summarised the key points of the paper that been circulated to members, which had sought to identify the key impacts on local residents and explain how these were being addressed. He acknowledged that development could be a very intrusive activity with a real impact on local residents, and that the council was held to a higher bar than other developers. It was important to be a considerate developer and take the lead in understanding and mitigating these risks.
He emphasised that they did not have all the answers at this point, and while the paper listed a number of development and construction impacts, it was more about articulating the processes they would follow in the coming weeks and months to better understand and respond to the risks. The paper outlined a number of statutory processes in place to respond to impacts, including the high level of consultation attached to the planning process and the requirements placed on builders and contractors during the construction phase.
However, he stressed that they would go beyond what was required by law, and ensure that strong communication networks were established between communities and residents, while engaging with stakeholder groups to ensure that feedback loops were solid. Gathering information was key, both from websites and from oral and written feedback. There was a clear need to undertake a responsive design process in order to mitigate risk.
He highlighted that the report was a snapshot of where they were at the moment, and he hoped it offered a good overview of their rationale. Their priorities were to gather and understand information, and to set up communication networks through public consultation exercises and targeted stakeholder consultation. A central part of this would be the role of the community coordinator, who would be the fulcrum of the relationship between the project team and wider community. The Marketing and Communication Lead Officer added that the development partner currently employed Caroline Dyer to lead community engagement and build on existing relationships.
The Chair moved into Member questions and debate:
- One Member highlighted the need for an infrastructure-first approach to future proof the site, building on lessons learned from other projects. In a high-tech area, it was important to ensure that utility channels could be changed and upgraded in the future without causing major disruption – for example, by installing wires under pavements rather than under roads. The Senior Development Manager responded that future proofing structures was at the core of what they were doing. The initial bid from the development partner included a focus on smart city principles for this very reason, and it was key to provide cost-effective solutions that suited the county from a highways perspective too. Another key aspect of this was flexibility, so they would include new bus routes and mobility hubs to make things as car-free as possible. They needed to keep streets walkable and encourage cycling and e-scooters. The Head of Construction also added that on the utilities question, their focus was on longevity, so they were currently establishing the best connection points and how best to serve the site. He expected that the most effective way of implementing these services would be in phases rather than trying to serve the whole site on day one.
- One Member was pleased to hear that they would go above and beyond their statutory obligations. With this in mind, how would they get best value out of their contractors? The Director of Major Developments & Regeneration responded that most of these would be Tier 1 contractors, who were renowned for public engagement. Contractors would be pre-qualified to ensure they got the right partners on board from the council’s perspective.
- One Member asked about the precise working relationship between HBD x Factory and CBC. The Senior Development Manager responded that they were development partners, with HBD x Factory as the lead partner, and with financial interest and benefit involved for both parties. Throughout the procurement process, they had tried to bring on board a partner with greater capacity and resource than the council, so they would do the majority of the legwork. The council’s role was to support them, challenge them, ensure that they were working to the vision and goals defined in the development agreement, and provide input on that. The Director of Major Developments & Regeneration added that within the development agreement, there were governance mechanisms that provided a solid basis, including monthly project steering meetings and quarterly project board meetings including the Cabinet Member (Cllr. Collins) and CBC director (Paul Jones), which provided strategic guidance. Their involvement was both day-to-day and at formal monthly meetings with clear terms of reference.
- One Member asked whether there was a project team, and whether they had a project plan showing the interdependencies of the various components which was regularly reported to the board. The Director of Major Developments & Regeneration confirmed that they were the core team, and they were documenting a lot of activities on Clearview along with their overall goals. They also catalogued and managed risks using this system, with a summary provided to the program board every month both on progress reports and risk assessments.
- One Member asked what they saw as the biggest risk to the project considering the current volatile financial environment. The Director of Major Developments & Regeneration responded that at the moment this was probably ensuring viability throughout the development phase. All developers were facing real challenges at the moment, including the cost of building materials, the availability of skilled labour, and interest rates.
- One Member emphasised the importance of creating a self-sustaining system, and asked what they expected this to look like. The Senior Development Manager responded that, as the Golden Valley SPD had made clear, it was an employment-led development which needed to expand out effectively with sufficient housing. They were working on an indicative phasing plan to deliver the right balance, including community integration as a crucial part of the project.
- One Member noted that bus routes seemed to be a priority, and was concerned that a lack of car parking provision might create a rat run. They were not convinced that bus services were in a condition to be rolled out and expanded when they were currently being cut back. The Senior Development Manager clarified that their overall travel strategy also prioritised cycle routes, and had a clear green spine throughout. There were different types of cyclist to think about, both those who did it for leisure and those who cycled to work. Bus services would be key for residents and businesses, and while it was not entirely within their control they needed to act now in order to future proof.
- One Member appreciated the focus on public consultation, as well as the willingness to learn from pre-existing local problems.
- One Member asked about the situation with Junction 10, which would be key for the supply of goods as well as to future planning applications. The Director of Major Developments and Regeneration responded that they were keeping a very close eye on this at a number of different levels, as it would affect how housing was delivered, especially in the northern parcel. It was now not expected to be delivered until 2027.
The Chair thanked the officers for their contributions, and looked forward to hearing from them again in the future on this key project.