Cheltenham's ambitious Golden Valley Development is making some headway, thanks to a funding agreement to bring forward the development of land for two buildings at the heart of the project.
The funding agreement, which was agreed by Cheltenham Borough Council at full council on Thursday 28 September 2023, is key to securing the delivery of the National Cyber Innovation Centre and Mobility Hub, which have a vital role to play in achieving the Golden Valley vision.
Set to create a 'cyber capital' for the UK, the Golden Valley Development will introduce a vibrant garden community, bringing hundreds of new and affordable homes, retail spaces and business, training and career opportunities to west Cheltenham.
The planned National Cyber Innovation Centre is at the very centre of the development, providing a home for the UK's cyber, digital and creative sectors. It will bring the public sector, academia and companies of all sizes together in one place; as well as offer a vibrant and accessible space for local students and schoolchildren to get inspired by career prospects within the fast-growing cyber sector.
Not only this, the Innovation Centre will give local residents access to careers within the cyber field, driving greater inclusivity and job opportunities for the communities living around GCHQ and the Golden Valley Development.
The neighbouring Mobility Hub will provide plenty of parking, while promoting active travel across the development to reduce car use as much as possible, and improve transport connections across the wider community.
The newly-approved development funding agreement outlines a framework that offers governance and assurance between Cheltenham Borough Council as landowner and the developer, HBD X Factory.
It allows funding for the two buildings to be provided from a range of sources — including borrowing and selling other council assets, if certain conditions are met, within an envelope of up to £95 million — and establishes a number of conditions that must be fulfilled before the development proceeds.
By directly funding the Innovation Centre and Mobility Hub, Cheltenham Borough Council is able to influence the development, ensuring it can be delivered quickly and with certainty.
Councillor Mike Collins, cabinet member for cyber, regeneration and commercial income at Cheltenham Borough Council, said: 'I am pleased that we have taken a huge step forward in the delivery of our Golden Valley ambitions and now have a development funding agreement to enable us to move forward with this first phase.
'This is significant and will give us assurance on a number of levels. Funding a project of this scale and nature comes with associated risk but this agreement provides us with a number of protections through a variety of clauses and conditions that must be satisfied before any funding is provided.'
Protections within the funding agreement include a cap, in case construction costs increase.
Matt Bellshaw, director at HBD which was appointed as developer for the first phase of the project in July 2022, added: 'It's fantastic to see the funding agreement signed off — Golden Valley is one of the UK’s most exciting new developments and we look forward to continuing to work alongside the council, key stakeholders and the community to bring the vision to life.'