Venue: Virtual (via Zoom)
Contact: Ian Gourlay (01438) 242703 Email: committees@stevenage gov.uk
WELCOME AND CHAIR'S OPENING COMMENTS
The Board Chair welcomed everyone to the meeting.
APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE
The Board was advised that apologies for absence had been submitted by the following:
Stephen Ward (Catapult) – Kasia Averall substituting
Briege Leahy (Hertfordshire Chamber of Commerce)
Patsy Dell (Hertfordshire County Council)
Colin Haigh (Hertfordshire County Council)
Charlotte Blizzard-Welch (Citizens Advice Bureau)
Steve Finlan (The Wine Society)
Keith Ellis (Airbus)
Karen Burness (Airbus)
Duncan Parsley (GlaxoSmithKline)
Will Rohleder (Reef Group)
Richard Whitehead (Aecom)
It was RESOLVED that the Minutes of the meeting of the Stevenage Development Board held on 20 January 2022 be approved as a correct record.
The Board received the latest conflicts of interest list.
TOWN DEAL BUSINESS CASES TRANCHE 4
Chris Barnes (SBC Assistant Director: Regeneration) presented the Tranche 4 Town Deal Summary Business Cases for the Garden Square and Diversification of Retail Space; Science, Innovation & Technology Centre (SITEC); and Cycling & Pedestrian Connectivity (including Arts & Heritage Trail) projects.
(1) Garden Square and Diversification of Retail Space Project
Chris advised that this project comprised the delivery of a Garden Square and associated enabling works, as well as facilitating the diversification of retail through a range of activities. The scheme would be part funded by £3.75M from the Towns Fund and required a further £6.25M of match funding from private sector investment from other elements of the SG1 development. The lead organisations would be Mace and SBC, and outline planning permission had been granted as part of the SG1 masterplan.
Chris commented that the proposed scheme was fully consistent with the aims and objectives of the Stevenage Town Investment Plan (TIP). It was a complex business case due to numerous elements, but the key principles were simple, namely
· delivery of the Garden Square (Food & Beverage, informal leisure/culture space) and enabling works, and supporting diversification of Town Centre (activating the existing bus station, shopping centre & car park);
· enabling and enhancing delivery of the Garden Square; increasing the specification to include a water feature and high-quality space; land assembly/demolition enabling works; and
· diversification of Town Centre; activating existing bus apron pre-Garden Square, addressing shopping centre “back entrance” adjacent to the Garden Square & SG1 development.
Chris explained that it was intended to retain some flexibility of spend to support initiatives as they came forward. The potential exposure to traditional retail, and challenges to diversifying, was a key weakness/challenge. It was hoped to maximise the effectiveness of private investment, by enabling faster delivery with less risk, and by ‘filling in the gaps’ – similar to pedestrian/cycling links between new developments. There would also be a need to ensure any investment relating to privately owned assets was subsidy-control compliant and that the Accountable Body retained sufficient security.
Chris recommended that the Business Case be endorsed.
The Board debated the Business Case, during which Chris confirmed that the initial works to the existing bus station apron would be of a temporary measure, until such time as other elements of the SG1 development were in place. However, as this was likely to take a number of years, the temporary surface to the bus station apron would consist of good quality materials.
It was RESOLVED that the Garden Square and Diversification of Retail Space Project Business Case be endorsed and recommended to the Accountable Body (Stevenage Borough Council) for approval and noting that funding relating to Garden Square delivery (Mace) and shopping centre entrance/car park (Waxy Ltd.) would be subject to Accountable Body Agreement and legal sign-off as appropriate.
(2) Science, Innovation and Technology Centre (SITEC) Project
Chris advised that this project comprised the delivery of a new sills centre to support residents in obtaining higher skills levels/qualifications, and bridging the gap between further and higher education. The ... view the full minutes text for item 5.
REGENERATION PROGRAMME UPDATE
Gemma Hannant (SBC Regeneration Major Projects Officer) gave a presentation providing a progress update on Stevenage Town Centre Regeneration.
As an overview, Gemma advised that good progress was being made across the Regeneration Programme, with some key milestones achieved over the past month. However, rising construction costs and a limited labour supply continued to cause pressure for future projects.
Bus Interchange Project: practical completion should be within the next few weeks, with an official opening in May 2022. Board Members would be invited to an event to celebrate its completion.
Queensway North Project: full practical completion had been achieved on 9 February 2022. 65 out of 100 apartments had been let, with a high level of ongoing enquiries. 3 offices and 3 retail spaces were vacant, but were being actively marketed.
SG1 Project Enabling: Plot A (Swingate) – soft strip works had been completed and asbestos removal had commenced. The design for the new site hoardings (updated from the Bus Interchange hoardings) was being installed. Plot K (Southgate) – demolition of the former Police Station was complete, and contractors were progressing with the demolition of the garages site. The Team were working on a hoarding design for when the site was cleared and a permanent hoarding line was in place.
Railway Station Multi-Storey Car Park (MSCP): the SBC Executive had approved the final scheme. The Team was working with Huber and consultants to finalise the construction contract. It was hoped that works would start on site as early as May 2022, with a 40-50 week construction programme. Communications were being developed to advise Station users of alternative parking arrangements during the construction period.
Autolus (Marshgate) Project: the scheme was progressing well and was slightly ahead of schedule.
Natasha Lee (SBC Regeneration Communications Officer) gave a presentation providing a progress update on Communications.
Natasha referred to communications and marketing for 2022/23, with regard to the objective “share the story of the regeneration as change is delivered on the ground”. This would include:
· narrating the regeneration story for local people, with tangible benefits;
· demonstrating progress on the ground;
· positioning the Towns Fund projects as a key driver for enabling regeneration;
· raising the national and regional profile; and
· presenting a story of engagement and collaboration.
The Board supported Natasha’s wish to establish a Communications Sub-Group, involving the various communications leads from partner organisations. It was important that this Sub-Group could deal swiftly with any misinformation about the Regeneration Programme that appeared on social media channels.
Natasha drew attention to the themes of key pillars of regeneration to share the past and shape the future, which were Town Centre diversification; Transport and connectivity; Sustainability; Arts and culture; Businesses; Leisure; and Local jobs and economy.
A Board Member felt that the Local jobs and economy pillar should make more explicit reference to the “skills” element.
ANY OTHER BUSINESS
(1) Levelling Up White Paper
Tom Pike (SBC Strategic Director) drew attention to the Government’s 12 Levelling Up Missions. For the Development Board, there were 3 areas of direct support or opportunity, namely:
· The UK Shared Prosperity Fund – Guidance was expected in the Spring, with allocations to be made available to district-level authorities for regeneration, skills and similar;
· Levelling Up bid round 2 – Expected to open up for bids from district-level authorities in the Spring. Previous rounds were for bids of up to £20Million and there was an opportunity for a Stevenage bid; and
· High Streets Taskforce – Stevenage had been identified as one of 68 places to benefits from advice and support from this Taskforce.
(2) Stevenage Station Gateway Area
Tom Pike (SBC Strategic Director) reminded the Board that the Stevenage Town Investment Plan highlighted the importance of the Gateway area. £500,000 of Towns Deal funding had been allocated to work on a masterplan for the area, and £6Million had been allocated for land release. Work on the masterplan would be a top priority for the year ahead. This would be supported by some longer-term planning for the land use in the area (the Area Action Plan).
Tom reported that SBC had undertaken consultation with residents and stakeholders on the vision for the area, and over 300 responses had been submitted. There had been a positive response and support for the ambition to create a thriving area, a sense of arrival, sustainability, culture and heritage. A summary report would be prepared for the Board to share feedback and seek views at a meeting in the Spring.
(3) Stevenage High Street
Councillor Sharon Taylor (SBC) stated that the Council would be holding an open engagement consultation process on 5 and 12 March 2022. This process would be independently facilitated and would provide an opportunity for residents and businesses to present their views regarding the future of the High Street area.
DATES OF FUTURE MEETINGS
To be advised – provisionally a date to be agreed in May 2022.