New jobs, new homes and the climate emergency are at the forefront of all our minds as we recover from the Covid pandemic. As Liberal Democrat leaders in local government, we need to address all these. I was proud to lead the media briefing in Cheltenham announcing our internationally significant development that covers all three of those topics.
The Golden Valley development will bring up to 12,000 new jobs, 3,700 homes and two million square feet of commercial space, centred on the UK’s first cyber security focused campus: Cyber Central. And we will achieve some of the highest levels of sustainability in development available as part of a Garden Community.
Cheltenham already has a booming cyber security sector, partly down to the important work undertaken by GCHQ’s site at the west of the town. The town has eleven times the national average of cyber security business. It was because of that strong base and the vision of the Lib Dem led council, including our harding-working officers, that we made our biggest ever investment. We purchased the land for £37.5million, giving us control over the future of the site. That meant we could aim high on environmental standards and set affordable housing at almost 40 per cent of the development. That’s part of our £180million commitment to building affordable housing in Cheltenham. Our developer partner HBD X Factory, announced formally today (30 July), is working to a supplementary planning document that sets out our ambitions.
And those ambitions are set high. The jobs at Cyber Central will be in skilled professions that will give Cheltenham people a better future. Already, Gloucestershire College is offering a degree apprenticeship in partnership with the University of the West of England. Pioneering local industry leaders have setup Cynam to ensure knowledge is shared among the local cyber security community – and they’ve been doing some brilliant outreach to get women and girls involved in STEM too. Thanks to the hard work undertaken already, there is significant interest in the site from household names.
None of this would be happening if the Liberal Democrats had not been running the Borough Council for the past 11 years, for most of that time under my inspirational predecessor Steve Jordan. This announcement is a taste of the difference we can make to our communities when we take a positive, can-do approach to the future.