Since the UK’s spying headquarters of GCHQ was established in the city in the 1950’s, Cheltenham has attracted large firms like IBM, Raytheon, Microsoft, BAE Systems to the region. However, startups like Truststamp, Bamboo Technologies, Ripjar, Hub8, CYNAM, have emerged out of the city, which draws on the talent that naturally gravitates to such a place, especially when you have these kinds of organisations floating around.
Now it appears that Cheltenham is getting its act together to more closely target entrepreneurs, investors and startups, especially now that the Covid-pandemic has seen talent thrown to the four winds, looking for better lifestyles and more access to nature. Smartly, it will be leveraging its association with the cyber-security-oriented GCHQ.
In 2019, Cheltenham Borough Council spent £37.5m purchasing 45 hectares of land adjacent to GCHQ. The idea being to capitalize on the burgeoning cybersecurity and technology community.
After a year-long selection process the Council has now selected key partners as ‘preferred bidders’ to deliver it – Factory and HBD (formerly Henry Boot Developments). The ambition is to grow the area to 200 hectares, which would make it one of the biggest tech startup campuses in Europe.
The development is projected to add 12,000 new jobs, 2 million square feet of offices, and 3,700 new homes, and will be drawn on the ‘Garden City’ status, building upon the Garden City Movement established in the late 19th Century by Ebenezer Howard.
Jeremy Bamberg, who will be leading the project locally for Factory said: “This is a once in a lifetime project – it’s unprecedented. By embracing tech, nature, and innovation we’re working to transform the area into Europe’s most intelligent Garden District – creating an ideal alternative to chaotic city life.”
The first step of the project will be building, Factory Cheltenham. As with Factory’s projects in Berlin and Lisbon, the architecture and design will led by Julian Breinersdorfer, who recently joined Factory to create an in-house offering for similar buildings and districts.
Tim Atkins from Cheltenham Borough Council said: “We were looking for a partner to help the Council make our ambitious plans a reality. HBD and Factory have shown us how they share these goals and more importantly, how these will be transformed into a living breathing entity right here in Cheltenham that has a positive impact locally, whilst being a key part of the global cyber sector.