Final bids are in from the three firms in the running to take the lead on the transformative £400 million Golden Valley Development.
Decision-makers at Cheltenham Borough Council are currently considering the proposals and expect to reveal their verdict in mid-summer.
When that happens we will finally see how the 45-hectare ‘world-class’ cyber-centre business park and 200 hectare, 3,000-home development will look, and the search for a main contractor which began in May 2020 will be over.
‘We have now received the final bids. From a long list of six firms that we shortlisted to three, and they have all submitted draft bids,’ said Tim Akins, managing director of place and growth for Cheltenham Borough Council and the man steering the ambitious local authority-led project.
‘We intend to make a decision on the bids in July. That will get us a preferred bidder. It will then be onto drawing up the contracts and then we can progress.’
Despite the scheme winning favour across all local authorities involved – Cheltenham, Tewkesbury – there is still the planning process to factor in.
The scheme became part of the county council’s Joint Core Strategy in 2017.
A recent online conference, hosted by the Cheltenham offices of legal experts Charles Russell Speechlys, underlined the significance of the development for the county.
Alex Chalk, MP for the town and guest speaker at the on-line event, said: ‘I am convinced Cheltenham and the wider area can really benefit from this innovation and initiative. The government is up for this.’
Jonathan Morley, partner in corporate and technology at Charles Russell Speechlys, called it ‘an exciting, transformational project creating an environment in which innovation takes centre stage’.
Mr Atkins is no stranger to major public/private infrastructure projects, having steered the £50m stadium and leisure complex for the City of York, which leveraged £40 million of private investment.
He said an exact timetable was difficult to pin down at this stage, but the momentum was there.
‘We aim to get the planning process started later this year, but with any large infrastructure project there are a number of hurdles to navigate that could slow things down a little or add complexity. There is a lot happening and it will make next year really exciting,’ said Mr Atkins.
‘Can a planning application in and agreed in 2022? Fingers crossed. It would make next year really exciting.
‘We have real commitment and are working with so many other parties. We have GFirst LEP, Cynam, commercial interest, GCHQ, all working on detail at different levels.
‘We have real commitment and are working with so many other parties. GFirst LEP, Cynam, GCHQ and a wide range of commercial and academic organisations are contributing to the delivery of the project as we further grow the regional cyber & digital eco-system.
‘This is unique to Gloucestershire, and it will connect us economically to Oxford, Birmingham, South Wales and the South West.
‘There is every reason to believe in the project. There is investment from government, there is investment planned for the motorway junctions, for the A40, academia and business.
‘People are seeing the councils put their hands deeply into their pockets to create long-term prosperity; with Cheltenham Borough Council leading the way committing £180 million for housing and £40 million to purchase the land and drive the project forward.’
By Andrew Merrell
Wednesday 02 June 2021
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