Stevenage named High Potential Opportunity Zone by Government

The Department for International Trade (DIT) has classified Stevenage, Hertfordshire, as a High Potential Opportunity (HPO) zone in recognition of its thriving cell and gene therapy cluster of national and international significance. The successful HPO nomination was made by Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and is expected to help attract further overseas investment into the county.

Stevenage is at the centre of the largest cluster of cell and gene therapy companies outside of the US. The growing cell and gene therapy campus in Stevenage is delivering over 1,000 jobs and is home to over 45 companies, 13 of which are in the cell and gene therapy space.

The campus was awarded Life Science Opportunity Zone status for advanced therapies in 2019 by the Office for Life Sciences. It is jointly anchored by Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst, whose occupiers have raised over £1.6bn of investment to date, of which over 65% has been invested into cell and gene therapy companies; and the pioneering Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult, which has built its Manufacturing Centre in Stevenage, and which has been instrumental to the growth of the UK’s cell and gene therapy industry.

DIT’s High Potential Opportunities programme was launched in 2018 to encourage and accelerate foreign direct investment into the UK’s key growth sectors, in line with Government’s Industrial Strategy. There are currently 17 HPOs throughout the UK, and an additional 19 HPOs will be developed over the course of Round 2. HPO status denotes specific commercial opportunities to potential overseas investors, which are packaged into a compelling commercial proposition for promotion through DIT’s global network. This can help accelerate the growth of business and industry, boost local job creation and prosperity, and strengthen the UK’s sectorial advantage.

Cell and gene therapy is a sector of strategic importance to the UK’s life sciences industry, highlighted by the ‘Global Sales Pitch for Life Sciences’ as a core part of the country’s life sciences ecosystem. Since 2018 the UK has seen £1.7bn invested in the cell and gene therapy sector, a 60% increase in cell and gene therapy manufacturing space, and a 200% increase in industry turnover. The UK is developing further expertise and capacity in cell and gene therapies, with the global market predicted to grow to $6.6bn by 2027.

HPO status will enable the existing cell and gene therapy cluster centered around Stevenage to be promoted more effectively on the world stage to bring about fresh opportunities for growth. Hertfordshire LEP, the Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult and Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst will work closely with DIT over the coming months to help progress opportunities for inward investment.

Adrian Hawkins, Chairman of the Stevenage Development Board, said: “In line with the Government’s Town Investment Plan, and our wider 20-year, £1bn programme, we are not only regenerating Stevenage but also focusing intently on building opportunities for local people. Our town is on the up and this is yet another example that Stevenage is at the forefront of bioscience development and expertise across Europe and beyond. We are delighted that the collective impact of our cell and gene therapy businesses has enabled the town to be named a High Potential Opportunity zone, which will shine the spotlight on Stevenage on a global stage and in turn, support the delivery of real opportunities for local people.”

Cllr John Gardner, portfolio holder for Environment and Regeneration at Stevenage Borough Council “We’re delighted to see Stevenage gain further recognition and be named as one of the UK’s HPO zones. It’s indicative of some of the amazing work that’s carried out in our town and will hopefully encourage further growth and investment. Stevenage has a lot to be proud of and this represents another fantastic accolade for our town.”

Nitin Dahad, Chair of Hertfordshire LEP’s Enterprise & Innovation Board, said: “We are delighted with the success of our HPO nomination for Stevenage. The HPO underlines the significance of Hertfordshire’s burgeoning advanced therapies cluster to UK plc, as well as its major growth potential. The sheer concentration of cell and gene expertise, R&D and manufacturing capability in Stevenage makes a compelling case for the inward investment needed to catalyse expansion and create high quality local jobs.”

Matthew Durdy, Chief Executive Officer at Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult commented: “The UK cell and gene therapy industry is continuing to grow thanks to the strong Government backing and the unique supportive ecosystem that enables companies to develop and therapies to reach patients effectively. With one in four European cell and gene therapy companies already operating here, and the UK accounting for 12% of the global clinical trials, we are looking forward to this additional recognition providing further opportunities to develop additional capabilities for the UK to maintain its world renowned position.”

Sally Ann Forsyth, Chief Executive Officer at Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst commented: “We are delighted that Stevenage is being recognised for its significant contribution to the cell and gene therapy field. The new HPO status ensures we can support the pioneering work of our occupiers and continue to grow as Europe’s cell and gene therapy hub.”

Minister for Investment Gerry Grimstone said“The UK has so much to offer international investors across a variety of key sectors and regions. Our HPO programme looks at some of the sectors and sites across the UK where we see some of the world’s greatest challenges being solved. Inward investment will help the UK build back better while levelling up all parts of the UK. This is just the start of the steps we are taking to increase inward investment and drive economic recovery.”

Hertfordshire LEP is also part-funding a new Cell and Gene Integration Lab in Stevenage to cultivate the skills pipeline crucial to meeting current and future business needs. The lab will harness the expertise of the Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult and provide the UK’s first digital training centre specifically equipped for advanced therapy manufacturing. It is one of five ‘shovel-ready’ projects selected to receive a share of Hertfordshire LEP’s £16.8m allocation from Government’s Getting Building Fund, launched in response to COVID-19 to help accelerate economic recovery and job creation across the country.

 

 

The £1bn transformation of Stevenage Town Centre

Hertfordshire Mercury
Matthew Smith
June 16 2020

It’s an exciting time in Stevenage’s future. As people start to return to the town centre it brings a new sense that normality might just be returning.

But, for the Herts town, there is much more on the horizon.

After redevelopment plans fell apart in the past, most notably in 2008 after the financial crisis, we’re now years into a decades-long project to breathe new life into the town.

As coronavirus shut construction sites this time around, it was hard not to feel a little sense of dread that 2008 was happening all over again.

Luckily, it appears that it’ll be little more than a blip with construction resumed again on most of the projects – including the Town Square and the £50m transformation of Queensway North

£1bn will be spent on Stevenage over the next 20 years, with the redevelopments primarily focusing on underused space and forgotten parts of town.

The project is being spearheaded by established construction companies Reef and Mace, who were recently involved with the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

That means there should be little disruption for established businesses as the area around them improves. It’s a win-win for everyone.

Benefits for local people

Danestrete

One main question mark is whether this project is being done to benefit the people who have lived in Stevenage for years or to appeal to commuters wanting to escape London.

However, this was quickly disputed by the Council Leader Sharon Taylor, who pointed out the benefits for local people throughout the process and once it’s completed.

Cllr Taylor said: “The Stevenage Works project, which works with the construction companies, has a £130,000 grant which means we will have Stevenage people to do the jobs, and that is a really great thing to do.”

And, while there are fears that the area could become a nondescript commuter town, the Leader pointed out plenty of people work in London but join community schemes and charities in the area already and that it’s not as simplistic as that.

A council spokesman, who showed HertsLive around the sites, also argued that while people do move for its access to the capital, Stevenage is a large employer in its own right – including with leading airline manufacturer Airbus and BMW.

There’s also increased office space to bring those companies right into the heart of the town and it means those local businesses in the centre will be benefiting from much higher footfall than they currently have.

The move to bring housing into the town centre should also bring more people to spend – whether it’s in gyms, restaurants or shops once they all fully reopen.

What do the plans involve?

Skyline - Stevenage

There are 18 different schemes announced so far set to transform the town centre.

The plans completed include Skyline and Brickdale House, and Vista Tower, which have brought much needed housing to the town and helped shake some of the grey tower blocks.

But for visitors to the town it may not be as noticeable yet, while the revamp of Market Place is much improved, it’s not enough to draw people in.

But that should be about to change. Now that the early work has been completed, the more ambitious refitting and rebuilding work is well underway.

Work has been ahead of schedule on the redevelopment of the railway station, with a new bus interchange soon to follow, meaning the first impression of the town will soon be much more impressive.

Then when visitors arrived it’ll be almost unrecognisable to how it is now, with a new pedestrianised boulevard offering a light, modern feel to what is quite a bleak part of the town. Work is expected to begin on that in 2025.

There will also be an almost brand new Town Square, which brings offices to the town centre as well as giving the whole town a much needed lick of paint once it’s completed in the next couple of years.

That involves a £50m refit of the ageing Queensway North, which began early 2019 and will include a town centre gym, with the huge old Marks and Spencer building redesigned to accommodate housing and new shops.

The small team behind the plans are all local to Stevenage, which has ensured the plans bear in mind what has worked in the past, as well as local gripes – and the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

The benefit of a local team is also that little touches are thought about too – including ensuring the Joyride statue will be completely accessible for the first time in its history.

There’s also a commitment to get rid of the old police station, which is a huge, empty eyesore for most people walking into the town centre.

There is also the commitment of 1,100 new homes being completed by 2021 – with hundreds more to arrive in the years after.

Stevenage remains one of the most affordable places to live in Hertfordshire, and by meeting housing demand that should remain the case despite the vast improvements to the town.

There are also some specific commitments made, including Kenilworth Close which will deliver 236 new homes, with 50% of those being affordable and social rented homes.

Park Place

Park Place Stevenage

 

One of the most notable new developments already completed is Park Place, which is a sleek modern looking building, but one that has frustrated local people.

Despite being completed in 2019, the retail space has stood largely empty – with just one shop moving in, unfortunately a couple of weeks prior to lockdown.

However, Peter Beard of MBU Capital, who are responsible for the development, said that things have been progressing.

Speaking in March ahead of the lockdown, he pointed out that the sales of the residential properties have been strong.

He said: “There are 202 apartments, of which just over 161 have been sold, and only a few of those still need to be occupied, and the remainder remain for sale using a variety of means –  whether that’s cash or a mortgage or help to buy is still available on them.”

Mr Beard also responded to speculation about whether the empty space indicated that the rental price was too high.

“[Rents] are competitive, we also manage some of the units on Queensway and know the tone of rent in The Forum, so competitively they’re actually below those levels.

“But they are fully respectful that we aren’t on the main pitch, so I’m comfortable with the rates we’ve been attaining pound per square foot from our incoming tenancies.

“I know what we’ve been getting in Park Place is an acceptable rate, we’re happy with what we’ve got.”

Instead, MBU believe there has been a lack of demand across the retail sector but is hopeful once momentum builds around both Park Place and the town, more progress will be made.

Stevenage Even Better also insisted that over the whole town there will be a focus away from traditional retail and onto office space, restaurants and leisure facilities.

That diversity ensures that the town won’t be so dependent on retailers as it has been in the past, while also giving residents a more vibrant town centre experience.

Before the coronavirus lockdown, those involved in the plan boasted about how the work was actually ahead of schedule – almost completely unheard of when it comes to major projects.

That may have now been pushed back slightly but – whisper it quietly – after false dawns in the past, it looks like Stevenage will soon have the town centre it deserves.

To read the feature on the Hertfordshire Mercury website click here 

Stevenage Town Centre Regeneration: What’s changing?

The Comet
Georgia Barrow
15 January 2020

Visitors to the town centre in recent months will have noticed a major increase in development activity.

So far, Market Place has benefitted from the introduction of a play trail, work has started on Queensway North – the former Marks & Spencer building – and the Town Square, which have both seen new retail outlets and leisure and residential facilities.

There have also been a number of private developments – such as Park Place – nearing completion.

Hundreds of residents have taken part in a number of consultations held by the council as well as private firms hoping to be a part of the huge redevelopment of the town centre, including Mace, which has recently submitted a planning application for the biggest development in the regeneration plans, called SG1.

Stevenage is set to benefit from the provision of up to £25m from the New Towns Fund to further develop its regeneration plans. All in all, there’s a significant amount of activity taking place in the town at the moment.

The regeneration programme is a boost for those looking to see upgrades to the central areas of the town.

Across the country, town and city centres are facing challenges. Reports from late last year by PriceWaterhouseCooper revealed that around 16 shops are closing every day, the highest rate since the survey began in 2010.

In Stevenage, the regeneration plan is to revitalise the town, to provide a place for people to live, work, relax and play. This plan learns from studies like The Grimsey Review, that recommend kickstarting town and city centres by including a combination of shops, bars, restaurants and leisure facilities, creating a more vibrant town, more demand and a place to spend time both in the day and during the evening.

The SG1 planning application for the Stevenage town centre regeneration has been submitted. Picture: Mace

The SG1 planning application for the Stevenage town centre regeneration has been submitted. Picture: Mace

But how will the regeneration reshape Stevenage? Partnerships have been signed with organisations including Mace, the firm that built the Shard and the London Eye, and Reef Estates to deliver the major, 20-year, £1bn programme that’s set to transform Stevenage.

Reef is currently redeveloping Queensway North while Mace – working in partnership with Ashe – has started work on the major upgrade of the Town Square in the past few months.

Mace is also delivering the single largest scheme – SG1 – which will transform the existing town centre, creating a new Garden Square, a new linear park at Southgate Park and a new boulevard in the centre of the town. Those behind the plans say The Hub is a key part of SG1 and will provide a shared space featuring a new library along with health, voluntary, council and other groups under one roof making services significantly more convenient.

Part of Queensway is under development, with contractors from Reef already on site in the former M&S unit and the adjacent buildings.

The redevelopment of Park Place, if given the go ahead, is set to kick-start the regeneration of Stevenage town centre.

SG1 from above – Picture: Park Place

Work is also under way to upgrade and relocate the existing bus station to meet 21st century needs.

The new interchange will provide bus users with a modern, heated, indoor waiting area and café, with significantly improved facilities, toilets, and live passenger information boards.

The relocation closer to the railway station combined with the introduction of new streets that are part of the SG1 development, will also aim to improve public transport links across Stevenage and beyond.

The redevelopment of Park Place, if given the go ahead, is set to kick-start the regeneration of Stevenage town centre.
SG1 Proposals

 

Stevenage Borough Council is set to submit planning permission for the new bus station, located in what is currently a car park south of the Stevenage Arts and Leisure Centre, with hopes of opening it in 2021.

The existing bus station site will become a location for a new Garden Square in the heart of the town that will offer an attractive location relax and enjoy, with new cafes and places to eat and drink.

SG1 explained – the detail

The proposals for the SG1 project submitted by construction company Mace is set to cost £350 million and will come in a number of phases.

The redevelopment of Park Place, if given the go ahead, is set to kick-start the regeneration of Stevenage town centre.
The redevelopment of Park Place

 

The large development – which will be financed by private funding and land sales – is due to begin its first phase this year, subject to planning permission.

If adopted, phase one will see the development of Swingate House and car park – the opposite Westgate multi-storey – the old police bullding and social services, which are currently derelict, and adjacent garages.

It will also see 760 new homes with a new Southgate Park.

The second phase, which will begin in approximately 2023, will see the development of the new Garden Square, located where the current bus station is.

Stevenage Borough Council has plans to move the bus station to a site south of the Stevenage Arts and Leisure Centre, with hopes of completion by 2021 – subject to planning.

Phase three and four – set for 2024 and 2027 respectively – will include the development of the new public services hub and two new residential blocks and the demolition of the Plaza, council office, Mecca Bingo. The current library and ear clinic will be developed into 750 new homes.

Councillor Sharon Taylor, leader of Stevenage Borough Council, said: “It is crucial that we adapt and improve Stevenage to help make the town centre a place for us all to enjoy.

“I am proud of the heritage of the town and looking forward to a bright future.”

Computer-generated images of what the new development will look like. Picture: Reef Group.
Computer-generated images of what the new development will look like. Picture: Reef Group.

 

For more on the developments go to www.stevenage-even-better.com, or visit the Visitor Centre, which is open in the Town Square, from Wednesday to Saturday, 10am to 5pm.

Consultations will continue to take place as planning proposals are brought forward, so that residents can have their say on the plans.

https://www.thecomet.net/news/stevenage-regeneration-what-s-happened-so-far-1-6466110