(1) Reef update
The Board Chair welcomed Piers Slater from Reef and invited him to give a presentation on the work of Reef in Stevenage.
Piers advised that Reef had been active in Stevenage for four years, developing the Queensway North scheme. Nationally, Reef had provided £3Bn investment in development schemes, many of them working in partnership with local authorities.
Piers referred to Reef_KN, a knowledge fund set up with UBS to create links between people, skills, places and knowledge, particularly in the life sciences and digital sectors. He the referred to Digital Reef, set up with partners ukcloud, to provide advice and support on digital requirements and solutions for the life sciences sector, particularly in the field of manufacturing. He commented that Stevenage was perfectly located in the centre of the Cambridge-Oxford-London “Golden Triangle” for life sciences.
Piers drew attention to the activities of Reef in Stevenage, working closely with a variety of partners, including the Borough Council, LEP, North Herts College, Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst, Catapult Cell & Gene Therapy, STEM Discovery Centre, University of Hertfordshire and Autolus.
Piers summarised the Queensway North project, which had provided new office, residential, gym and retail units in the town centre. He also introduced plans for the Innovation Centre (one of the Town Investment Plan projects) and the Marshgate Bioscience building being developed for Autolus (another of the TIP projects). In the future there was further scope for the potential development of other town centre sites for further life sciences facilities and offers such as office/collaborative buildings.
Matt Partridge (Chief Executive: Stevenage Borough Council) commented that it had been a pleasure to work with Piers and his Reef colleagues over the past few years, and that he was looking forward to continuing what had been a fruitful partnership. Those sentiments were echoed by Borough Councillors Sharon Taylor and John Gardner, and they were pleased to note that a focus on climate change/carbon zero would be built into future developments.
Karen Hillen (BEIS) asked if a Government Ministerial visit could be arranged in connection with the Autolus building. It was noted that the Chief Executive of Autolus was visiting the site in November 2021 to “launch” the building project. The Board Chair stated that the site was currently a car park, and he felt that it might perhaps be more meaningful if the Ministerial visit coincided with the formal opening of the building once constructed.
The Chair thanked Piers for an excellent presentation.
(2) Mace update
The Board Chair invited Kevin Cowan (Mace) to give a presentation on the work of Mace on the SG1 regeneration project in the town centre.
Kevin advised that the SG1 scheme was endeavouring to develop an attractive evening economy for the town centre, including an enhanced food and beverage offer, community space, office space and green areas, as well as high quality new build homes. The intention would be for most of those occupying the residential units to work and socialise in the town. SG1 was also being designed to feed into adjoining areas of the town.
Kevin described the 4 main phases of the SG1 project, which encompassed 10 plots of land. In terms of a general update, he confirmed that planning permission had been granted; the Section 106 Agreement had been largely completed; legal conditions were in place to commence demolition for Phase 1; detailed design and supply chain procurement was being secured; and an accelerated programme had been agreed in principle (the Garden Square and Civic Hub elements were intended to be moved from Phase 3 into Phase 2).
Kevin stated that Mace was an accredited net zero carbon business, and he provided some examples of the zero carbon materials and processes used in their construction schemes. Mace was also supporting local businesses in the supply chain, and recognised social value in terms of local jobs and apprenticeships for local people. He also referred to some local voluntary work undertaken by Mace in respect of maintenance and improvements to the Pin Green Play Centre.
Borough Councillor John Gardner stated that Mace had brought a high standard of construction development to the SG1 scheme, and he looked forward to this continuing in Phase 2 and beyond, including the Civic Hub, which would benefit a variety of partner organisation as well as the Borough Council. He naturally welcomed the focus on carbon neutral construction methods.
Charlotte Blizzard-Welch (Stevenage Citizens Advice Bureau) was pleased that the plans for the Civic Hub had been accelerated in the overall SG1 programme. Kevin thanked Charlotte for her offer of providing advice to Mace regarding the needs of the community/third sector in the facilities to be provided in the Hub.
Tom Pike (Strategic Director: Stevenage Borough Council) and Borough Councillor Sharon Taylor paid tribute to Kevin and Mace and looked forward to continuing to work in partnership to expedite the most significant town centre transformation since Stevenage New Town was established in 1946.
The Board Chair thanked Kevin for an interesting and informative presentation.