LGC gets an insight into a typical week for Slough BC’s service lead for regeneration.
2009–2017 Assistant director for planning policy and economic development, Epping Forest DC
2008-2009 Regeneration programme manager, Hackney LBC
2007-2008 Parliament Square & Albert Embankment programme manager, Transport for London
My title says regeneration, and that’s a big part of what I do. But I manage a team of six people who do everything from estate management to major site development work, and I touch base with them on Monday morning to understand where we are on our projects
We have the highest number of international HQs outside of London and, especially since our new chief executive Josie Wragg started last October, there is lots of ambition and momentum around redeveloping Slough.
We’re embarking on a complete redevelopment of our town centre, so I’m busy talking to consultants and completing master planning briefs. Some of the sites we’re putting forward are very large schemes, there isn’t anything on this scale outside of London. But we’re really at the beginning of our journey.
We have a real mix of cultures and one of the youngest populations in the UK, so there are discussions about how redevelopment and our regeneration approach are facilitating those younger generations. Part of the issue we’re struggling with is there’s not enough keeping young people in the borough.
On Tuesday, I attend our monthly senior management team meeting. Everybody is asked to explain what projects they’re working on, so mine is an update on what we’re doing with Slough Urban Renewal, our joint partnership with Morgan Sindall Investments on the development of two new Marriott International brand hotels and 64 units on the site of our old library, which has just broken ground. There is also a discussion on what’s happening with our former Thames Valley University campus site, which is owned by the council and has plans to redevelop into homes, offices and retail. It will be the largest single council regeneration project seen outside of London.
I’m also doing a lot of work with the various locality hubs around the borough where we’re consolidating services such as GP services, and which will include flexible working spaces for council officers.
The key driver for Slough’s redevelopment is its emerging local plan. It’s not just about how to help our existing business sectors grow and the delivery of housing, but also what we want Slough to look like and what types of businesses we want to attract.
We have upward of 10,000 homes to deliver over a 35-year period, plus 15,000 jobs. It’s a lot considering that Slough is a relatively small borough, but it’s all driven on demand. It’s a huge mapping exercise, and we have to make sure we get it right now before we go any further forwards.
From a regeneration perspective we’re also looking at the softer things - the quality of our public realm, and what you feel when you come out of the station-how you perceive the townscape.
It’s also about bringing people along with us who have that community leadership because as a council on our own with a couple of developers, we’re blinkered if we’re not being informed by our community.
It takes me over two hours to get to Slough, so I work from near my home in Leyton on Wednesdays and Fridays because doing that commute every day would burn me out. The council is really good at allowing flexible working and it’s something we’re increasingly committed to enabling. It means I can drop off and pick up my kids from school on those days.
I go to a communal working hub space, because I’m distracted too easily at home, and get on with my report writing.
Every Thursday, our senior leadership team holds an ideas session. This week it’s on the business case for the transformation process the council is going through, and as part of that, senior management are inputting information about where we are and the journey to where we want to get to.
We’re keen to raise the profile of Slough, which is often remembered for being the setting for the TV show The Office. There’s an ongoing debate in our own office around that issue! I say it’s good that people mention it so we can say ‘yes some of these things are true, but so is this’. There are so many wonderful things about Slough that have got lost over the years.
Making an impact
On Friday, I’m working from a communal hub again. Invariably I’ll be on my phone and taking emails throughout the day, because there’s always a discussion to be had about unlocking something in a development project.
Coming back to the workplace in January after a two-year hiatus after my son was born, I really wanted to do something that inspired me. I know that if I do my work well I’ll deliver something that will impact people’s lives for decades to come, and that makes me wake up in the morning with a passion for my job.
What I can find frustrating at times is around consensus building. There are so many different component parts to regeneration – it’s also about the community, stakeholders and politicians. I have to navigate my way through what different people want, and that’s not always necessarily the same thing. Projects start and stop. You can feel for weeks that you’re not getting anywhere, and then all of a sudden, you have a breakthrough. And it’s so rewarding when you get to the other end.
As told to Jessica Hill