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Collaboration is the default way in Herts

Published: 25 July 2019CGI showing aerial view of Brookfield Riverside, BroxbourneCreating a strong sense of place: Brookfield Riverside (CGI), Broxbourne

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By Scott Crudgington and  Jeff Stack

We recognise that so much more can be achieved if we work together. in Hertfordshire, we’re focused on building a stronger, more sustainable county where people choose to live, work and raise a family, now and in the future.

That’s a significant challenge, and it doesn’t mean one thing – it’s schools, a strong transport network, great health services. The list goes on. To make this a reality, we’re developing a new approach of close collaboration between councils, and nurturing effective partnerships across sectors.

This strengthens decision-making, improves engagement with people and, in turn, empowers them and builds a strong sense of place in communities. It simply feels like the next and logical step to achieve success for our residents.

At Brookfield Riverside, given the scale of the development we are essentially playing our part working alongside Broxbourne Borough Council in planning the creation of a new town centre. Creating better places for people is the ambition, and we are committed to a strategic approach to planning and, in being so, delivering the right growth for Hertfordshire.

A major part of this is identifying the right opportunities for some of the land owned by the county council to help meet demand for new types of development, including for housing and retail schemes. So, it makes sense to work closely on a project which could unlock land to deliver a variety of schemes.

We have been involved in all aspects of the scheme, including helping to choose the development partner and establishing the strategic vision for the whole development. However, building productive relationships doesn’t happen overnight, and our team has held regular face-to-face meetings with Broxbourne to build trust and set out the best ways to work for us all.

These meetings are continuing to happen, and not only at Broxbourne. We are also working in a similar way on a variety of projects, including the proposed Baldock Urban extension with North Hertfordshire DC as part of their emerging local plan.

A collaborative approach in local government is becoming part of our culture at Hertfordshire – it’s part of the fabric of who we are. We’re the County of Opportunity, and we see the opportunities, and the potential, in working side by side with our partners.

Last year, we formed the Hertfordshire Growth Board with the county’s 10 district and borough councils and the Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership. This is to ensure we work together cohesively on planning, economic growth and infrastructure matters over the long term, and to raise our profile and make our case to Government to secure funding.

Collaboration is now the default way of working in Hertfordshire.

Scott Crudgington is director of resources at Hertfordshire CC

The impetus for the Brookfield Riverside scheme originally came from the late James Barham, formerly of Rialto Homes and more recently of Bayfordbury Estates, who had the vision for a large retail and leisure centre in the area in the 1990s. The council signalled its intention to continue mixed use development here in its 2005 Local Plan and has been pursuing it ever since, despite it having been rejected by the Planning Inspectorate when it considered our Core Strategy back in 2010.

When I was first asked to be the lead officer on this project after joining Broxbourne BC in 2008, collaboration and partnership working with the county council was underdeveloped and the county at that time did not have the same growth agenda as it does do now.

Ten years later and Broxbourne BC has taken the project a step further towards delivery, this time with the support and cooperation of the county council which recognises the importance of economic growth across the whole county.

The land forming the Brookfield Riverside scheme is jointly owned by Broxbourne BC (75%) and Hertfordshire CC (25%) so both parties have a keen interest in its success. In addition the councils jointly purchased 330 acres of land in 2014 adjacent to the Riverside site which is now planned to be a Garden Village of 1250 homes.

Together, we have procured a development partner, Sovereign Centros, to bring the Riverside vision to fruition and have jointly instructed property advisors and solicitors to work on our behalf. In addition the two organisations worked on and submitted a bid to the Government’s Housing Infrastructure Fund (HIF) to facilitate the future development of the neighbouring Brookfield Garden Village development.

The project is now making good progress and whilst there is still a long road ahead before we see development on the ground, the pace at which we are moving is testament to the importance of collaboration and partnership between councils in two tier areas.

Jeff Stack is chief executive of Broxbourne BC