The Chair advised that he, together with Matt Partridge, Tom Pike and Chris Barnes from Stevenage Borough Council, had met with representatives of the MHCLG on 26 January 2021 for a check and challenge session on the submitted Stevenage Town Investment Plan. He commented that it had been a testing session, but that the MHCLG’s questions were well answered by the Team. He came away from the meeting with much optimism.
Chris Barnes (SBC Assistant Director, Regeneration) gave a presentation on the steps to be followed following the check and challenge session on 26 January. Should the Plan proceed to the next stage, the next step would be for Heads of Terms to be proposed by the MHCLG, with the Board being allocated 2 months to agree a project confirmation table and spend profile. Thereafter 12 months would be allocated for the development of Business Cases for each project, with the potential for the drawing down of funding for fast-track projects alongside the preparation of these Business Cases.
Chris advised that the immediate next steps would be the production of a TIP delivery plan; identification of resourcing requirements and schedules; preparation of Business Case templates and methodology; Board governance review and work plan; appointment of Responsible Officers and sub-groups; learning lessons from other towns; production of an Engagement, Communications and Marketing Plan; and positive engagement with partners about potential delivery mechanisms.
Matt Partridge (SBC Chief Executive) gave an overview of the questions/answers raised at the check and challenge session:
· Involvement of local MP – it was made clear that the Local MP had been invited to every Board meeting but had not attended any meeting.
· Evidence was supplied as to the national contribution the Stevenage TIP would make and the mutual benefit between the town and large scale businesses.
· The uniqueness of the TIP bid (in terms of the New Town element) was emphasised, in terms of it forming a blueprint for other New Towns.
· There was a focus on evidencing the need for some of the projects included in the TIP submission in the light of social deprivation.
· The complexities of achieving a number of the TIP schemes, such as the Station Gateway project.
· The Leisure Centre project, against the background of the current national position with leisure providers struggling to survive due to the Covid pandemic.
· The inter-relationship between the TIP projects and the SG1, Queensway North and Matalan schemes.
· The scope and scale of the Heritage Centre project and its role within the proposed Civic Hub building; and
· The challenges of attracting match-funding, especially in connection with the Leisure Centre and Gunnels Wood Road Infrastructure improvement projects.
Tom Pike (SBC Strategic Director) commented that the answers to the questions had focussed on the ambition, impact and deliverability of the TIP projects. Particular mention was made of the potential for expansion of the excellent life sciences sector already present in Stevenage.
Chris Barnes confirmed that there would be an opportunity to review the number of fast-track TIP projects, should circumstances change.
Karen Hillen (BEIS) stated that she was unable to advise on a precise timescale as to when the Board would be informed of the outcome of the Stevenage TIP submission. However, she would keep the Team informed of developments as they arose.