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‘Financially resilient’ council driving forward ambitious growth

basingstoke

Basingstoke & Deane Borough Council Seek an Executive Director of Borough Development

It has been described by the Local Government Association as one of the most financially resilient local authorities in the country. Now Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council is looking for someone with the skills to help it capitalise on that position as it drives forward ambitious growth plans.

Basingstoke is at the heart of the government’s growth plans and with an up to date adopted local plan in place the borough’s population is expected to grow from circa 170,000 to over 200,000 in the next 10 to 15 years.

The council’s new executive director of borough development will have the chance to not only guide those plans to fruition but also ensure the authority continues to serve the needs of all residents spread across this vast borough. Because while it’s home to a growth hotspot, the council area – which covers 250 square miles of Hampshire – is predominantly rural and includes the North Wessex Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Watership Down, and Highclere Castle known to many as Downton Abbey.

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Highclere Castle in the borough was the setting for hit show ‘Downton Abbey’

Chief executive Mel Barrett admits it’s ‘not your typical council’. That’s somewhat of an understatement when you examine the scale of its assets and the investment his patch is now experiencing. For example, south west of Basingstoke at Manydown is the largest site in local authority ownership in the south east, for which a procurement process to secure a private sector joint venture partner is underway.

A first phase of development is expected to deliver 3,400 homes alone and there’s capacity for up to 10,000 homes overall, supported by major infrastructure investment which will also benefit existing residents. ‘At 2,000 acres it’s the largest housing opportunity in the south of England and understandably government is very supportive,’ says Mr Barrett.

Many of the council’s assets are a legacy of the development corporation that led Basingstoke’s expansion in the 1960s and 70s and include a one million square foot Urban Business Park at Basing View. It sits not on an out-of-town site but adjacent to the town centre and is the base for the AA’s headquarters along with numerous large international firms such as Sun Life and BNP Paribas.

John Lewis and Waitrose opened its largest combined store there last year and the council’s rolling redevelopment programme has seen Abstract Land commence a new speculative office development, with a range of other mixed use opportunities currently being explored, and further announcements expected shortly.

The council also owns town centre retail sites along with business and industrial parks across the borough. Having assets is one thing, but looking after them and ensuring they put the local authority on a sound financial footing is another. ‘In line with other local authorities we have taken millions out of the budget in the last few years through innovation, efficiency measures and adopting shared service arrangements with neighbouring councils. As a result of delivering major savings recently and many years of careful and effective stewardship of its asset base the council remains in a strong and resilient financial position,’ says Mr Barrett. ‘What makes this organisation particularly noteworthy is that we have got the resources to back up the aspirations to make things happen.’

Although it’s within easy reach of London, the local economy already supports 82,000 jobs. ‘There are a lot of jobs here to go around, however we are not complacent and are planning for further economic growth and job creation. This is an area of relative prosperity but we do have pockets of deprivation. We therefore play a role in helping people who need support, for example through outreach programmes and supporting people in terms of developing confidence and raising aspirations to put them in a position where they are able to take up opportunities and maximise their potential.’

The new executive director of borough development will inherit a talented and committed team of staff and can expect to be greeted by an exciting and challenging ‘to do’ list when they arrive. ‘Working closely with elected members this person will lead a grouping of services that focus on the continued economic growth and development of the borough, including major projects at Manydown, Basing View and targeted town centre renewal.

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Chief Executive Mel Barrett

Mr Barrett himself only joined the council eighteen months ago, having previously been executive director of housing and regeneration at the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham where he led several high profile development projects.

He admits to being ‘amazed and impressed’ by the quality of the offer in the town and the borough as a whole. Basingstoke was once synonymous with roundabouts and concrete but that’s in the past thanks to developments like its £300m Festival Place shopping centre and the pedestrian links between shops, offices at Basing View and attractions like its award winning Anvil Concert Hall which regularly hosts Sir Simon Rattle, an unprecedented 60-acre Leisure Park which features Airkix which provides a simulated sky diving experience and draws visitors from across the country.

With Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council now very much in the regional and national spotlight as a key player in the south east’s housing plans and arrangements for devolution, he is looking for someone with experience and confidence that can operate at all levels.

Waitrose & John Lewis opened their largest combined store in Basingstoke last year

‘There are lots of meaty things for them to get their teeth into. They must be as comfortable engaging with local communities as they are regionally and nationally. That’s why we need someone who has confidence borne out of significant experience and a track record of delivery. They must also be confident working in a democratic setting. They’ll have an ability to assess a situation, identify opportunities to collaborate with others, and ultimately to deliver for the benefit of our residents.’

Applicants can apply here

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