Chris Barnes (SBC Assistant Director: Regeneration) gave a slide presentation regarding the pipeline for the submission to the Government of Business Plans for projects included in Stevenage’s Town Investment Plan (TIP).
Chris advised that key work streams had been established, in order to prepare for Business Case delivery, including a delivery plan, governance, engagement plan and financial planning. The completion of these activities over the coming 4 weeks would form the full programme delivery plan for the next 12 months.
Chris stated that, in terms of Business Case (BC) preparation, the Town Deal Heads of Terms had been returned to the Government. A number of other steps were also reported to be in place: a draft governance paper had been prepared setting out the development and review process for business cases, including further engagement with the Government’s Town Deal support team; professional support had been commissioned for the production of business cases; a number of the fast track projects were moving towards the drafting stage; additional resources had been secured to increase capacity to work on business cases and to prepare for implementation; initial meetings had been held with the Theme Group leads from within the Development Board; and work was progressing on the finalisation of the delivery plan and timescales.
Chris explained that the Board would play a key role in supporting the journey from concepts to projects (and on to delivery) by leading on aspects of projects; providing assurance and guidance; providing direction and input through engagement with the four Theme Groups and in sponsoring projects; and co-ordinating communications, supporting campaigns and championing the Stevenage Town Investment Plan.
Chris commented that, following the issue of the Town Deal Heads of Terms, the Stevenage Development Board Chair and the Council as “Accountable Body” must sign and submit a 2 month return by 23 May 2021, including the allocation of monies across the projects; financial profiling for the next 5 years; and a summary showing the anticipated outputs for the projects.
Chris advised that it was proposed that the following key principles would be followed:
· Retain all of the projects in the shortlist of the Investment Plan and publicly commit to delivering what the Board had set out to deliver, making the funding work as hard as possible to maximise the investment.
· Remove the digital project (£150,000) as a standalone item, and include it in the GWR or Gateway as a wider connectivity piece, which meant it could be delivered much quicker, as it would not achieve direct outputs; and
· Reduce formal outputs with the Government where projects were utilising less grant funding – these should be viewed as “minimum” baseline requirements and the Board would seek to achieve beyond these baseline requirements.
In terms of adjustments to mitigate the funding gap between the Town Deal Funding and the overall estimated cost of schemes, Chris proposed the following approach:
· Less funding for Station Gateway – working on the preparation phases to enable land release for example by provision of a Multi-Storey Car Park and master planning as a first stage to unlocking the gateway, with the infrastructure and enabling works to be the subject of a future funding bid. Work would continue on the Area Action Plan so that preparations could be made to deliver the long-term vision for this area;
· Focus initially on the life sciences development on Marshgate, using other sites to deliver key-worker housing and maintaining commitment to its key worker housing priority, and seek further funding;
· Minor reductions to a couple of the other projects (Cycling, Heritage Centre, Enterprise Centre) to balance the £37.5M across the projects without affecting deliverability too significantly; and
· An alternative funding scenario had been considered where one big project, such as the Leisure or Station Gateway, was removed completely, enabling other projects to receive their full funding allocation. This option had been rejected as it significantly reduced what could be delivered (one of the key regeneration projects dropped out), and what would be gained back in return from the other projects was not significant.
Chris concluded by stating that the next steps would be to:
· submit the two-month return in line with the principles outlined above, signed by the SDB Chair and the SBC’s Section 151 Officer to confirm agreement to the funding profile following consultation with the Chair and the Theme Leads.
· develop funding brochures for each of the business cases to engage other funding sources;
· continue to engage through the four Theme Groups;
· start work on the fast-track business cases; and
· finalise governance and assurance arrangements for Board endorsement.
Councillor Sharon Taylor (Stevenage Borough Council) asked Chris to submit to the next Board meeting a list of potential sources of match funding for the TIP projects, together with any Government advice as to the suitability and acceptability of match-funding sources.
It was RESOLVED that the actions taken, the proposed approach and the next steps outlined by the SBC Assistant Director: Regeneration in respect of the Stevenage Town Investment Plan projects be endorsed.